Structural Changes in the Brain on Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Malnourished Children: A Scoping Review of the Literature

Ahmed Ayaz, Imran Nisar, Ameer Muhammad, Kheezran Ahmed, Prem Chand, Fyezah Jehan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: This review was conducted to summarize the current evidence on the structural findings seen in brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in malnourished children and the effect of optimized nutritional supplementation on brain development as studied through MRI. Methods: A systematic search was carried out in PubMed, Embase, The Cochrane Library, Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics), WHO ICTRP Clinical Trials in Children, and using a predefined search criterion for relevant literature from inception to January 2022. The primary outcome of the study was structural changes observed in the brain on MRI. Results: The most common abnormal findings on MRI in malnourished infants were cerebral atrophy and dilated ventricles. Furthermore, a higher proportion of breast milk, calorie, and lipid intake in the diet was significantly associated with increased brain volumes; this also increased the likelihood of normal MRI scores at term. When followed till adolescence, it was observed that these infants had increased neonatal weight gain and a higher intelligence quotient when compared with the group. Conclusions: In conclusion, most children with moderate/severe malnutrition had abnormal MRI findings, mostly cerebral atrophy with or without ventricular dilatation. Since none of the studies measured the degree of atrophy or ventricular dilatation, it was not possible to assess the effect of the severity of malnutrition on brain atrophy. A universal measurement or scoring system for assessing the degree of brain atrophy is needed to help correlate the severity of malnutrition with the degree of brain atrophy and monitor the effects of nutritional rehabilitation over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric Neurology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Brain development
  • MRI
  • Malnutrition
  • Preterm


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