Is My Baby At Risk for Developing Periventricular Leukomalacadia (PVL)?

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What is Periventricular Leukomalacadia

Periventricular Leukomalacadia (PVL) is one of the most important causes of cerebral palsy and other long-term handicaps.

PVL is primarily seen in premature infants with the most prematurely born being the most likely to have this problem. PVL is caused by insufficient blood flow to parts of an infants brain before birth, at delivery, or after birth.

Symptoms of PVL

There are no physical symptoms of PVL in the newborn period.  Examining your baby will not determine if PVL is present.

Diagnosing Periventricular Leukomalacadia

PVL can only be identified by ultrasound, MRI scan, or CT scan of the brain.
Premature newborns have a risk of PVL and usually have a head ultrasound done at about 30 days of age to look for Periventricular Leukomalacadia.  The ultrasound test is the simplest brain-imaging test to perform. Even on a head ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI, PVL may not show up until a month or more after birth.

Therefore, to identify PVL reliably, a head ultrasound or other test should be done at about four weeks after birth.

When Is A Baby At Risk Of Developing PVL?

According to research, the lower the birth weight, the higher the risk for PVL. However, for each patient, many factors may combine to affect the development of Periventricular Leukomalacadia, including low blood pressure, infection in the baby or mother, and prolonged periods of low oxygen levels in the baby’s blood.

It is very difficult to predict which babies will develop PVL. That is why doctors perform routine head ultrasound examinations on many premature babies.

Treatment of PVL

There is no specific treatment for Periventricular Leukomalacadia. Current research focuses on identifying risk factors and on preventing PVL. There is some evidence that massage therapy, range of motion exercises, and oral and visual stimulation may reduce the level of disability. For that reason, occupational therapists are often included in your baby’s treatment team.

Long-term Problems from Periventricular Leukomalacadia

Your baby’s muscle control might be affected, although other brain functions may also be involved. The three most common problems resulting from PVL are:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Developmental delays (including mental retardation)
  • Behavior problems