The aim of this study was to investigate diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), an objective and noninvasive neuroimaging technique, for its potential as an imaging biomarker to predict the need and timing of CSF diversion surgery in patients after prenatal myelomeningocele (MMC) repair.
This was a retrospective analysis of data based on 35 pediatric patients after prenatal MMC repair (gestational age at birth 32.68 ± 3.42 weeks, range 24–38 weeks; 15 females and 20 males). A logistic regression analysis was used to classify patients to determine the need for CSF diversion surgery. The model performance was compared between using the frontooccipital horn ratio (FOHR) alone and using the FOHR combined with DTI values (the genu of the corpus callosum [gCC] and the posterior limb of the internal capsule [PLIC]). For patients who needed to be treated surgically, timing of the procedure was used as the clinical outcome to test the predictive value of DTI acquired prior to surgery based on a linear regression analysis.
Significantly lower fractional anisotropy (FA) values in the gCC (p = 0.014) and PLIC (p = 0.037) and higher mean diffusivity (MD) values in the gCC (p = 0.013) were found in patients who required CSF diversion surgery compared with those who did not require surgery (all p values adjusted for age). Based on the logistic regression analysis, the FOHR alone showed an accuracy of performance of 0.69 and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of 0.60. The performance of the model was higher when DTI measures were used in the logistic regression model (accuracy = 0.77, AUC = 0.84 for using DTI values in gCC; accuracy = 0.75, AUC = 0.84 for using DTI values in PLIC). Combining the DTI values of the gCC or PLIC and FOHR did not improve the model performance when compared with using the DTI values alone. In patients who needed CSF diversion surgery, significant correlation was found between DTI values in the gCC and the time interval between imaging and surgery (FA: ρ = 0.625, p = 0.022; MD: ρ = −0.6830, p = 0.010; both adjusted for age and FOHR).
The authors’ data demonstrated that DTI could potentially serve as an objective biomarker differentiating patients after prenatal MMC repair regarding those who may require surgery for MMC-associated hydrocephalus. The predictive value for the need and timing of CSF diversion surgery is highly clinically relevant for improving and optimizing decision-making for the treatment of hydrocephalus in this patient population.