To compare the term equivalent brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings between erythropoietin (Epo) treated and placebo control groups in infants 240/7-276/7 weeks of gestational age and to assess the associations between MRI findings and neurodevelopmental outcomes at 2 years corrected age. The association between brain abnormality scores and Bayley Scales of Infant Development, Third Edition at 2 years corrected age was explored in a subset of infants enrolled in the Preterm Erythropoietin Neuroprotection Trial. Potential risk factors for neurodevelopmental outcomes such as treatment assignment, recruitment site, gestational age, inpatient complications, and treatments were examined using generalized estimating equation models. One hundred ten infants were assigned to Epo and 110 to placebo groups. 27% of MRI scans were rated as normal, and 60%, 10%, and 2% were rated as having mild, moderate, or severe abnormality. Brain abnormality scores did not significantly differ between the treatment groups. Factors that increased the risk of higher brain injury scores included intubation; bronchopulmonary dysplasia; retinopathy of prematurity; opioid, benzodiazepine, or antibiotic treatment >7 days; and periventricular leukomalacia or severe intraventricular hemorrhage diagnosed on cranial ultrasound. Increased global brain abnormality and white matter injury scores at term equivalent were associated with reductions in cognitive, motor, and language abilities at 2 years of corrected age. Evidence of brain injury on brain MRIs obtained at term equivalent correlated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes as assessed by the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition at 2 years corrected age. Early Epo treatment had no effect on the MRI brain injury scores compared with the placebo group.

DOI 10.1016/j.jpeds.2021.08.040