Global developmental delay / intellectual disability are common pediatric conditions. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), although an important diagnostic tool in the evaluation of these patients, often requires general anesthesia. Recent literature suggests that unnecessary general anesthesia exposure should be avoided in early years because of possible long-term negative neurodevelopmental sequelae. This study sought to identify clinical clues associated with brain MRI abnormalities in children with global developmental delay / intellectual disability in an attempt to provide guidance to physicians on selecting patients who would benefit from an MRI. Retrospective chart review analysis was conducted for patients presenting to a pediatric neurology tertiary care center between 2014 and 2017 for a first clinic evaluation for global developmental delay / intellectual disability. Detailed clinical history and physical examination findings were analyzed and correlated with brain MRI findings. The majority (218/327, 67%) of children referred for evaluation of global developmental delay / intellectual disability underwent complete clinical and radiologic evaluations. Mean age was 37.9 months (±32.5 standard deviation) and 116 were males (53%). Motor deficits were predominant in most subjects (122/218, 56%). Abnormal MRI findings were observed in 153 children (70%), with the most prevalent abnormalities noted within the white matter (104/153, 68%), corpus callosum (77/153, 50%), and the hippocampus (50/153, 33%). Abnormal MRI findings were prevalent in children with predominant motor delay (84, 69%) and cognitive disability (3, 100%) as well as those with visual and hearing impairment (P < .05). The presence of facial dysmorphisms (57/71, P = .02); cranial nerve abnormalities (79/100; P = .007) and abnormal reflexes (16, P = .01) on examination also correlated significantly with increased MRI abnormalities.

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Alamri et al.
Journal of Child Neurology May 2021