Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is periventricular leukomalacia diagnosed?

Newborns may not show symptoms of PVL in the first few days of life. However, since premature infants have an increased risk of developing the condition, doctors may perform the following diagnostic tests:

  • cranial ultrasound: a painless test that uses sound waves to view the baby's brain through the soft spot on top of the head (fontanel)
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): this imaging procedure uses a magnetic field and radio to produce a detailed picture of the brain without exposing the infant to x-rays. PVL is a term that describes the way the affected infant’s brain looks on an MRI

Clinicians in the Fetal-Neonatal Neurology Program at Boston Children's Hospital provide comprehensive early and accurate diagnosis of periventricular leukomalacia and other brain injuries acquired by newborns and young infants. Because newborns' brains are in a crucial window of rapid development, we identify problems as early as possible and act quickly to prevent as much damage as possible.

How is PVL treated?

Although there is no treatment for PVL, we may recommend other types of care for your child, such as:

Most of these therapies are provided through early intervention programs in your community. Here at Boston Children's, we work to connect families to early intervention and support them in other ways such as transitioning to another program in our hospital that specializes in caring for older children.

What is the long-term outlook for my baby?

The long-term outlook for babies with PVL depends upon the severity of the initial brain damage. The types of symptoms vary widely and can range from a child who has minimal problems to a child who has severe delays and problems with movement.