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Anesthetic Exposure During Early Pregnancy Increases Risk of Congenital Heart Defects, Study Shows

A recent study shows that exposure to general anesthesia during critical periods of fetal heart development appears to contribute to an increased risk of congenital heart defects.

Photo: Pregnant Woman Receiving Anesthesia | InStyleHealth

Data were collected from a longitudinal group study of 2,095,300 pregnancies resulting in live births in hospitals of Quebec, Canada. Criteria included were receipt of general or local/regional anesthesia in the first trimester, such as between 3 and 8 weeks after conceiving, which is considered the critical weeks of fetal cardiogenesis.

Main output measures were critical and non-critical heart defects in babies. Generally, congenital heart defects had an occurrence rate of 107.3 per 10,000 infants exposed to anesthesia as opposed to 87.2 per 10,000 unexposed infant controls.

Using the log-binomial regression models adjusted for maternal characteristics revealed that compared with no anesthesia, anesthesia exposure between 3- and 8-weeks following conception was correlated with a 1.5-fold higher risk of congenital heart defects in infants.

Receiving of anesthesia between 5- and 6-weeks after conception presented an almost 1.8-fold risk increase of heart defects.

Correlations were mostly driven by general anesthesia, which contributed to 2.49 times higher risk of congenital heart defects in infants between weeks 5 and 6 after conceiving. More studies are required to confirm whether anesthetic agents are cardiac teratogens. For complete details of the study, click here.


Source: Int J Epidemiol 2021;doi:10.1093/ije/dyab019

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