Periventricular Leukomalacia

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What is periventricular leukomalacia?

Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is characterized by the death of the brain's white matter due to softening of the brain tissue. The disorder is caused by a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the periventricular area of the brain. The periventricular area is the area around the ventricles (fluid-filled cavities/spaces in the brain) where nerve fibers carry messages from the brain to the body's muscles.

PVL can affect fetuses or newborns, although premature babies are at greatest risk. Babies with PVL generally have no outward signs or symptoms of the disorder, but they are at risk for:

  • Motor disorders
  • Delayed cognitive development
  • Coordination problems
  • Vision and hearing impairments

PVL may be accompanied by a hemorrhage or bleeding in the periventricular-intraventricular area and can lead to cerebral palsy. The disorder is diagnosed with an ultrasound of the head.

There is no specific treatment for PVL. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Children with PVL should receive regular medical screenings to determine appropriate interventions. The outlook for individuals with PVL depends upon the severity of the brain damage. Some children exhibit fairly mild symptoms, while others experience significant disabilities.

Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with periventricular leukomalacia?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about PVL. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with PVL at

Where can I find more information about periventricular leukomalacia?

Information may be available from the following resource:


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The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.