Periventricular leukomalacia is a type of brain damage that impacts the white matter of the organ. As a result, the cells in this white matter either decay or actually die. Where the white matter used to be, the brain is simply left empty, allowing fluid to build up. It’s estimated that amongst children who have periventricular leukomalacia, roughly 60-100% of them will also develop cerebral palsy. The majority of the time, periventricular cerebral palsy is the kind that appears. Though less common, there is also a chance that quadriplegia cerebral palsy will develop in those who have suffered periventricular leukomalacia.
Causes of Periventricular Leukomalacia
There are two primary causes that lead to periventricular leukomalacia. Damage done to the cells of the infant’s periventricular tissue in their brain and a lack of blood are usually the culprits. Furthermore, babies who are born prematurely have a heightened risk of periventricular leukomalacia, especially if they come out before 32 weeks gestation. Sadly, premature babies also face the highest risk of fatalities if they develop periventricular leukomalacia.
However, other conditions can lead to periventricular leukomalacia as well. These include:
- Umbilical cord inflammation
- Having twins
- Difficulties with the placental blood vessel
- Antepartum hemorrhage
- Lack of oxygen to the periventricular region of the brain
- Illnesses like sepsis where bacteria enters the bloodstream
Signs and Symptoms Associated with Periventricular Leukomalacia
Periventricular leukomalacia can be a tough disorder to diagnose because it so closely mimics other medical conditions. It’s especially hard to detect when an infant is under six-months old. Even after this age, infants don’t show a lot of outward signs that can be used for a diagnosis.
That being said, there are still a number of symptoms to look out for:
- Impaired vision
- Hearing problems
- Intellectual and/or cognitive difficulties
- Trouble with coordination
Treating Periventricular Leukomalacia
If a physician suspects your child may be suffering from periventricular leukomalacia, a number of tests will need to be run to assess their current development and arrive at an accurate diagnosis. A cranial ultrasound will most likely be used as well, as a normal ultrasound may not show anything helpful in an infant younger than six months of age.
Should the results conclude that the infant does in fact have periventricular leukomalacia, the next step is determining its severity, so a plan can be devised for treating the condition. However, most plans will involve physical, speech and massage therapy. For infants who have impaired vision, a corrective treatment will most likely be recommended.
Current Research on Periventricular Leukomalacia
The journey to gaining a better understanding of periventricular leukomalacia is continuing. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke are constantly delving into this disorder as well as others caused by brain injuries. Every year they provide clinics, as well as clinical trials all over the country.
On top of that, the National Organization for Rare Disorders and similar groups study periventricular leukomalacia and carry out ongoing research in an attempt to better treat this malady and even locate a cure.
Outlook for Those with Periventricular Leukomalacia
When it comes to a prognosis, the severity of the periventricular leukomalacia is the deciding factor. Some children will experience very minor problems. Others, though, may suffer from severe disabilities and related challenges for the rest of their lives.
As there is no cure at the moment, the best you can do is work with your child’s physician to find and carry out the best possible plan of treatment for your infant’s specific situation.
Early detection is essential to treating periventricular leukomalacia. While it can be difficult to notice any signs before your child turns six months, it’s better to see a physician on a hunch than wait too long.