At no other time in human life are the clinical manifestations of neurological disease as subtle as they are in the newborn infant. Many neural structures that later govern the highest cognitive activities of the human brain are functionally silent in the infant. This structural–functional disconnect is even more pronounced in the premature newborn, in whom serious cerebral pathology is unfortunately common. Thus, the need for high-resolution imaging of the neonatal brain is great indeed, and in response to that need a virtual explosion of research and application of such imaging has occurred in the past 25 years. Therein lies the timeliness of this comprehensive, up-to-date book on imaging the neonatal brain. Dr Mary Rutherford and her colleagues have succeeded in a most decisive way in creating such a book.
The book is divided in a logical manner into four major sections. Part I deals with practical issues, Part II with anatomy and development of the immature brain, Part III with pathology, and Part IV with disorders in the newborn infant. A total of 18 well-organized chapters, most of which are within Part IV, are followed by a detailed and informative glossary of physics terms.
The chapters are written by experts in the field and are presented in a uniform organizational style. The chapter summaries are succinct and very useful. The images, the core of the book, are superb and abundant. However, importantly, the chapters place the images in the context of clinical aspects, which are discussed clearly but succinctly throughout.
Although all the chapters are valuable, many deserve special note. For example, the discussions of normal development of both the preterm and term brain include insights gained not only from conventional MRI but also from diffusion-based, volumetric and functional MRI, and from MR spectroscopy. The chapter on the asphyxiated term infant is a classic and reflects the large personal contributions of Dr Rutherford. Similarly, the chapter on cerebral infarction by Mercuri, Dubowitz and Rutherford draws appropriately heavily on the authors’ superb contributions. The chapters on ischemic lesions of the preterm infant by de Vries et al., hemorrhagic lesions by Rutherford, and vascular malformations by Lasjaunias et al. are also particularly notable. Chapters on imaging brain structure in the fetus and visual function in the newborn show us some of the future promise of this field.
Dr Rutherford is to be congratulated for her personal contributions, for assembling a superb group of authors, and for orchestrating all the contributions into an outstanding book on neonatal brain imaging. It should prove useful to anyone involved in the evaluation and care of the newborn.
Joseph J Volpe, MD
Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School
May 21, 2001