This brain malformation, called cortical cleft malformation, was discovered by William R. Brown, director of the Brain Microvascular Pathology Laboratory at Wake Forest. He presented his findings May 3 at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in Seattle.
"The brain malformations may result from blood clots that circulate from the placenta to the developing brain. This would cause cell death and a hole to form called a cortical cleft. This finding suggests an answer to the question, 'Why did this baby die?' to parents and physicians who look for underlying medical causes to explain the death of many preterm babies," Brown says in a news release.
He identified cortical cleft malformation by using ultrasound and MRI scans on the brain tissues of 33 premature infants who died soon after birth. Of the 33 babies, 31 had cortical cleft malformations.
Brown explains it's not possible to find this malformation in living babies because they're too small for MRI scans. But a specialized staining procedure that can be used after autopsy lets researchers identify this kind of malformation.
Here's where you can learn more about premature babies.