Aim Wallerian degeneration is a radiological finding thought to reflect corticospinal tract degeneration. This finding on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is routinely used as a predictor of poor prognosis in childhood stroke. However, its validity has never been established. Our objective was to correlate Wallerian degeneration seen on MRI with histopathology.
Method We searched the databases of the Department of Pathology and Children’s Stroke registry at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto for autopsy specimens exhibiting focal infarcts from children born at term who underwent MRI after a stroke. The specimens were examined for Wallerian degeneration and then correlated with the pre-mortem MRI findings.
Results Seven children (four females, three males) with a median age of 11 years (1–17y) at the time of stroke met the inclusion criteria for this study. Of the seven children included in the study with ischaemic or haemorrhagic infarcts, six had concordant Wallerian degeneration findings on both MRI and post-mortem histopathological examination. The median time between stroke and death was 20 days (3–1825d).
Interpretation Our results show for the first time that the radiographic finding of Wallerian degeneration is a valid biomarker of corticospinal tract degeneration in children who have had ischaemic or haemorrhagic stroke.