Definition of Periventricular leukomalacia, cystic

Periventricular leukomalacia, cystic: Softening of the white matter near the brain's ventricles resulting in abnormal cysts.

Cystic periventricular leukomalacia is a major problem in very premature infants.

Treating the mother with a cortisone-like drug before the premature birth has been discovered to protect the baby's brain from this complication. A research team reported a retrospective (backward-looking) analysis of the outcomes for 883 infants born between 24 and 31 weeks' gestation. Before delivery, 361 of the mothers received betamethasone (the key cortisone-like drug), 165 received dexamethasone (another cortisone-like drug) and 357 received no cortisone-like drug at all. In infants born to the mothers in these three groups, the rates of cystic periventricular leukomalacia were 4.4%, 11.0% and 8.4%, respectively. Betamethasone significantly reduced the risk of cystic periventricular leukomalacia. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Reference: N Engl J Med 1999; 341:1190-1196,1229-1230.)


Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2012

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