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Aim  To investigate the association between magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) patterns and motor function, epileptic episodes, and IQ or developmental quotient in patients born at term with spastic diplegia.

Method  Eighty-six patients born at term with cerebral palsy (CP) and spastic diplegia (54 males, 32 females; median age 20y, range 7–42y) among 829 patients with CP underwent brain MRI between 1990 and 2008. The MRI and clinical findings were analysed retrospectively. Intellectual disability was classified according to the Enjoji developmental test or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (3rd edition).

Results  The median ages at diagnosis of CP, assignment of Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) level, cognitive assessment, and MRI were 2 years (range 5mo–8y), 6 years (2y 8mo–19y), 6 years (1y 4mo–19y), and 7 years (10mo–30y) respectively. MRI included normal findings (41.9%), periventricular leukomalacia, hypomyelination, and porencephaly/periventricular venous infarction. The frequency of patients in GMFCS levels III to V and intellectual disability did not differ between those with normal and abnormal MRI findings. Patients with normal MRI findings had significantly fewer epileptic episodes than those with abnormal ones (p=0.001).

Interpretation  Varied MRI findings, as well as the presence of severe motor dysfunction and intellectual disability (despite normal MRI), suggest that patients born at term with spastic diplegia had heterogeneous and unidentified pathophysiology.