Minoxidil is a K+ channel opener able to cause relaxation of vascular smooth muscles and modify cell growth and cell fate or migration. It is now widely used for its hair growth promoting effects. When locally applied, it is absorbed through the skin and may have systemic pharmacological effects.
A 28-year-old white pregnant woman daily applied minoxidil 2% to her scalp because of hair loss. At the 22nd gestational week, after a routine ultrasound test showing significant brain, heart, and vascular malformations of the fetus, pregnancy was interrupted. The placenta had numerous ischemic areas and a discrepancy between gestational age and villi maturation. In the villi, capillaries were increased in number, significantly enlarged, and excessively marginalized. The fetus' heart was increased in volume and had a globose shape, the aorta had a distal stenosis. The sigmoid colon was significantly increased in length and a mesentery commune was present. The brain had enlarged ventricles and abundant hemorrhages. Histological examination showed areas of demyelinization with gliosis, signs of excessive and inappropriate angiogenesis, and capillary rearrangement.
Further knowledge on minoxidil-induced fetal toxicity would be beneficial before allowing its use in pregnant women. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.