Dorsal brainstem syndrome

Dorsal brainstem syndrome is a rare subset of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy in neonates limited to the isolated involvement of the brainstem with sparing of the supratentorial brain. Due to its subtle imaging features it is often undiagnosed.

Injuries involving the tegmentum of the caudal pons and medulla will result in compromising several vital functions as it harbors nuclei of the cranial nerves VI, VII, X, XII. They may present with bilateral facial nerve palsy, impaired sucking, swallowing, hypotonia, seizure and psychomotor delay 3,8.

Isolated bilateral symmetrical lesions of the brainstem tegmentum in the region of caudal pons and medulla oblongata with clinical features supportive of brainstem injury in hypoxic ischemic infants are described under dorsal brain stem syndrome 1. Neonates with less severe birth asphyxia have demonstrated involvement of brainstem with lesions in the tegmentum even in the absence of supratentorial lesions 2-6.

The tegmentum represents the watershed territory of the brainstem predominantly supplied by the branches of the vertebrobasilar system and less compensated by the anterior circulation making it vulnerable to hypoxic and hypotensive insults 7.

  • T1: bilateral symmetrical hypointensity involving tegmentum of caudal pons and medulla
  • T2: bilateral symmetrical hyperintensity involving tegmentum of caudal pons and medulla
  • no obvious signal changes in the supratentorial brain

Tegmental lesions are also demonstrated in infants with metabolic disorder including hyperglycinemia and mitochondrial injury 9,10.

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Article information

rID: 50721
Section: Syndromes
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1
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