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Learning About Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) in Newborns

What is periventricular leukomalacia?

Periventricular leukomalacia (say "pair-uh-ven-TRICK-yuh-ler loo-koh-muh-LAY-shuh"), or PVL, is damage to an area of a baby's brain as it develops in the womb. The brain may have received too little oxygen or had an infection before birth. PVL happens most often in babies who are born prematurely. It may lead to problems with the nervous system and the brain's development as the child grows. The problems can range from mild to severe.

PVL is diagnosed with the help of an ultrasound, an MRI, or a CT scan.

There is no specific treatment for PVL. Your baby is getting treatment for the problems he or she may have from being born early.

The long-term effects of PVL on your child depend on how severe the damage is. Physical and occupational therapy may help as he or she gets older.

Your baby may need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

What can you expect?

  • You may see tubes and wires attached to your baby. This can be scary to see. But these things help the doctor treat your baby. The tubes supply air, fluid, and medicines to your baby. The wires are attached to machines that help the doctor keep track of your baby's vital signs. These include temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse rate.
  • If your baby has trouble breathing, the doctor may use a ventilator. This machine helps your baby breathe. To do this, the doctor puts a soft tube through your baby's mouth into the windpipe.
  • The hospital staff will give your baby the nutrition he or she needs. The doctor may feed your baby through a soft tube that goes through the nose and into the stomach. Or the doctor may use an IV that goes through the belly button to do this.
  • Your baby may need oxygen. It is given to the baby through a tube in the nose or throat.
  • Your baby will be kept comfortable and warm.
  • It may seem that your baby is getting lots of tests. All of these tests help your doctor keep track of your baby's condition and give the best treatment possible.
  • It's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about his or her condition. Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies with this condition. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, get support from friends and family. Ask the hospital staff about counselling and support.

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