Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is damage to the inner part of your brain (white matter). Children who’re born prematurely are at higher risk of PVL. PVL may occur due to lack of blood or oxygen to your child’s brain. PVL leads to problems with motor movements and can increase the risk of cerebral palsy. PVL has no cure, but therapy can help improve your child’s day-to-day life.
Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is a kind of brain damage that occurs to the inner part of your brain (white matter). PVL may happen before, during or after birth.
White matter exists around the spaces in your brain that contain fluid (ventricles). Your white matter sends information among your nerve cells, spinal cord and other parts of your brain. Injury or death of this brain tissue affects the nerve cells that control your movement.
Periventricular leukomalacia symptoms can range from mild to life-limiting. Most often, PVL leads to tight (spastic) muscles. PVL also increases the risk of cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and other problems with development.
Anyone might get PVL. But it’s more common in children who’re born prematurely and have a low weight at birth. The more premature your child is, the higher the risk.
Each year, periventricular leukomalacia affects about 20,000 to 30,000 children born prematurely who weigh less than 3.3 pounds. About 7,000 of these children develop cerebral palsy.
The cause of periventricular leukomalacia isn’t clear. PVL may occur when not enough blood or oxygen gets to your child’s brain. Other conditions linked to PVL include:
In mild cases, some babies may not have any symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms appear gradually over time. The most common PVL symptoms appear by six to nine months of age and may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. They’ll also give your child a physical exam. They may suggest other tests as well, including:
There isn’t a cure for PVL. Treatments focus on minimizing symptoms and improving quality of life. These treatments may include:
You can’t reduce your child’s risk of PVL. But you can help improve your child’s quality of life by seeking treatment as soon as symptoms appear.
Periventricular leukomalacia can lead to physical and mental development issues. Severe cases of PVL can cause cerebral palsy. Your child’s healthcare provider will need to monitor them over time for any changes to their condition.
Children with PVL may live from a few months to a full lifetime. Their lifespan depends on the amount and severity of their symptoms, such as:
You can take care of your child with PVL by making sure they receive regular evaluations by a developmental specialist. If the specialist finds any issues, they can find ways to help as soon as possible.
You should contact your child’s healthcare provider if you notice:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is damage to your brain’s white matter. PVL may occur before, during or after birth. Premature children have a higher risk of PVL. Symptoms usually appear by the time your child is six to nine months old. These symptoms include problems controlling movement, developmental delays, learning disabilities and seizures. Treatments for PVL focus on improving your child’s quality of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/17/2022.
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