Most studies on the relationship of maternal diabetes to cardiovascular malformations (CVM) have been prospective investigations of pregnancy outcome and therefore could not identify associations with rare cardiac lesions. The results of a retrospective study shed new light on the risks of specific cardiac defects in diabetic pregnancies.
The Baltimore-Washington Infant Study, a population-based case-control investigation of CVM, provides information on maternal diabetes reported in personal interviews. Among 2259 mothers of cases, 35 (1.5%) reported diabetes present before pregnancy (called “overt”) and 95 (4.2%) reported diabetes only during pregnancy (called “gestational”). Among 2,801 mothers of controls, 14 (0.5%) had overt diabetes and 83 (3.0%) had gestational diabetes. Malformationspecific risks were expressed as odds ratios (OR) with 99.5% confidence intervals (CI). The strongest associations with overt maternal diabetes were found with double outlet right ventricle (OR 21.33; 99.5% CI 3.34, 136.26), and truncus arteriosus (OR 12.81; 99.5% CI 1.43, 114.64). No significant diagnosis-specific associations were found with gestational diabetes. Non-cardiac malformations were present in 23% of infants with CVM whose mothers had overt diabetes and in 26% of infants with CVM whose mother had gestational diabetes, in 32% of infants with CVM whose mothers did not have diabetes, and in 4% of controls. Double outlet right ventricle and truncus arteriosus are malformations dependent upon neural-crest-cell-derived ectomesenchymal tissues; these are precisely the conotruncal abnormalities that result from experimental ablation of the neural crest in chick embryos. The association with diabetes suggests a further etiologic link between these two lesions.