Extremely preterm infants commonly show brain injury with long-term structural and functional consequences. Three-day-old (P3) rat pups share some similarities in terms of cerebral development with the very preterm infant (born at 24-28 weeks of gestation). The aim of this study was to assess longitudinally the cerebral structural and metabolic changes resulting from a moderate neonatal hypoxic ischemic injury in the P3 rat pup using high-field (9.4 T) MRI and localized H-1 magnetic resonance spectroscopy techniques. The rats were scanned longitudinally at P3, P4, P11, and P25. Volumetric measurements showed that the percentage of cortical loss in the long term correlated with size of damage 6 h after hypoxia-ischemia, male pups being more affected than female. The neurochemical profiles revealed an acute decrease of most of metabolite concentrations and an increase in lactate 24 h after hypoxia-ischemia, followed by a recovery phase leading to minor metabolic changes at P25 in spite of an abnormal brain development. Further, the increase of lactate concentration at P4 correlated with the cortical loss at P25, giving insight into the early prediction of long-term cerebral alterations following a moderate hypoxia-ischemia insult that could be of interest in clinical practice. Magn Reson Med 65:305-312, 2011. (C) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.