Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) describes injury to the white-matter of the brain. It is characterized by evidence of necrosis of white matter near the lateral ventricles. It affects both newborns and fetuses. This pathology of the brain has been described under various names including: “encephalodystrophy,” “ischemic necrosis,” “periventricular infarction,” “coagulation necrosis,” “leukomalacia,” “softening of the brain,” “infarct periventricular white matter,” “necrosis of white matter,” “diffuse symmetrical periventricular leukoencephalopathy.”
This condition is often seen in premature infants. The periventricular tissue receives its blood supply from arteries in the brain. Changes in the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body can cause a decrease in blood flow to the arteries in the brain. When periventricular tissue receives an inadequate supply of blood, the tissue may die, leaving a cyst in its place.
What are the Risk Factors of Periventricular Leukomalacia?
This condition may develop as a result of infection in the mother, or prolonged periods of low oxygen levels in the baby’s blood. Babies with a low birth weight are at a greater risk of periventricular leukomalacia than normal birth weight babies.
How is Periventricular Leukomalacia Diagnosed?
This condition can only be detected through a CT scan of the brain, ultrasound, or MRI scan. When babies are born prematurely they are at highest risk of periventricular leukomalacia. The babies who are at risk for this condition will usually have an ultrasound of the head at about 30 days of age.