Periventricular Leukomalacia Symptoms & Causes


Boston Children’s Hospital provides thorough, specialized care for babies with brain injuries such as periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) as well as other neurological conditions. Here is some basic information about PVL.  When you meet with our experts in the Fetal Neonatology Program, you’ll learn about your baby’s diagnosis and treatment options in more detail.

What is PVL?

PVL is a type of brain injury commonly found in babies who are very premature and have a very low birth weight. It is damage to the white matter around the fluid-filled ventricles of the brain. White matter transmits messages between different nerve cells and parts of the brain.

What medical complications are associated with PVL?

As a result, babies with PVL have a higher risk of cerebral palsy  (a very general label that describes a mixture of cognitive and motor dysfunction with a broad spectrum of severity). Babies with PVL are thus at an increased risk of having developmental delays and learning disorders.


What causes PVL?

Although the exact cause of PVL is not known, the condition is thought to be caused when the areas of the brain around the ventricles (the fluid-filled spaces of the brain) don’t get enough blood. This area of the brain is very prone to injury, especially in premature babies whose brain tissue is fragile. The more premature a baby is, the higher the risk for PVL.

Other factors that may be associated with PVL include:



What are the symptoms of PVL?

Every child with PVL is unique and will have his or her own set of symptoms, which often become apparent over time as the child develops, rather than all at once.

The most common symptoms of PVL are:

  • Trouble with vision and with eye movements.
  • Trouble with movement, and tight muscles
  • Developmental delay that is increasingly apparent over time

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.