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Abstract

Research suggests that, perhaps through mechanisms initiated by vasoconstriction and leading to vessel thrombosis or embolism, cocaine causes vascular disruption defects, and that frequent cocaine use during early pregnancy could disrupt multiple organ systems in the fetus. We hypothesized that if cocaine is an important cause of multiple vascular disruption defects, a rising prevalence of cocaine use by mothers during pregnancy should be accompanied by rising rates of these defects in their offspring. Using data from the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program, we identified all infants born in Atlanta from 1968 through 1989 who had nonsyndromic, provisional vascular disruption defects affecting more than one organ system: 61 infants (78%) had gastrointestinal and genitourinary defects, 7 (9%) had gastrointestinal and abdominal wall defects, 2 (3%) had gastrointestinal and limb reduction defects, 2 (3%) had limb reduction and abdominal wall defects, 2 (3%) had central nervous system and gastrointestinal defects, 2 (3%) had genitourinary and limb reduction defects, 1 (1%) had genitourinary and abdominal wall defects, and 1 (1%) had central nervous system and genitourinary defects. The prevalence of Atlanta infants with more than one vascular disruption defect is 0.13 per 1,000 live births. Chi-square analysis for trends showed no increase in prevalence during the study period. Our data are from one of the first population-based studies in which trends for defects potentially caused by maternal cocaine use are examined; the results of our study show no significant change in the prevalence of multiple vascular disruption defects over time. We suspect that if cocaine is a teratogen, its teratogenicity is weak or is associated with a small subset of birth defects that are yet to be identified. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.