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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


ELSINGERGY, M M et al. Magnetic resonance imaging diagnosis of causes of cerebral palsy in a developing country: A database of South African children. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2021, vol.111, n.9, pp.910-916. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a common worldwide disabling disorder. However, data about prevalence and causes of CP in developing countries are deficient because of high cost and limited availability of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the gold standard neuro-imaging modality for evaluation and management of CP in neonates. OBJECTIVES. To determine the frequency of CP causes in children with suspected hypoxic ischaemic injury (HII) involved in medicolegal litigation in South Africa based on MRI report findings. METHODS. A total of 1 620 MRI reports were categorised into HII, non-HII and normal MRI. None of the patients had prior neuro-imaging records. HII reports were sub-classified according to pattern of brain injury into basal ganglia-thalamus (BGT), watershed (WS), combined BGT-WS, periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and multicystic encephalomalacia. Non-HII diagnoses were sub-classified into strokes, congenital malformations, kernicterus, hydrocephalus, haemorrhages, atrophies, metabolic causes and infections. RESULTS. The median age was 6 years. HII reports (n=1 233; 76.1%) showed BGT in 447 (27.6%), WS in 266 (16.4%), combined BGT-WS in 335 (20.7%), PVL in 58 (3.6%) and multicystic in 127 (7.8%). Non-HII diagnoses (n=255; 15.7%) showed 78 (4.8%) congenital malformations, 50 (3.1%) atrophies, 35 (2.1%) kernicterus, 23 (1.4%) strokes, 12 (0.8%) haemorrhages, 14 (0.9%) hydrocephalus, 36 (2.1%) metabolic and 7 (0.5%) infections. Normal exams were 132 (8.2%). CONCLUSIONS. Despite being performed a relatively long time - median of 6 years - after the suspected perinatal HII, MRI yielded a diagnosis in 92% and showed that only 76% were due to HII, and more importantly, that there was a preterm HII pattern of injury in 15%, which when added to the 16% of non-HII cases, could potentially save on litigation in a total of 31% of cases that are unlikely to be related to malpractice. MRI should be performed wherever possible in CP cases, even if no imaging exam was performed in the perinatal period.

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