Context: Chorioamnionitis has been implicated in the pathogenesis of cerebral palsy, but most studies have not reported a significant association. Cystic periventricular leukomalacia (cPVL) is believed to be a precursor of cerebral palsy in preterm infants.
Objectives: To determine whether chorioamnionitis is associated with cerebral palsy or cPVL and to examine factors that may explain differences in study results.
Data sources: Searches of MEDLINE (1966-1999), Index Medicus (1960-1965), Doctoral Dissertation Abstracts On-Line (1861-1999), bibliographies, and online conference proceedings (1999) were performed for English-language studies with titles or abstracts that discussed prenatal risk factors for cerebral palsy or cPVL.
Study selection: Of 229 initially identified publications, meta-analyses were performed on studies that addressed the association between clinical (n = 19) or histologic (n = 7) chorioamnionitis and cerebral palsy or cPVL in both preterm and full-term infants. Inclusion criteria were: presence of appropriate exposure and outcome measures, case-control or cohort study design, and provision of sufficient data to calculate relative risks (RRs) or odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Studies evaluating risk of cerebral palsy following maternal fever, urinary tract infection, or other maternal infection were collected, but not included in the meta-analysis.
Data extraction: Information from individual studies was abstracted using standardized forms by 2 independent observers blinded to authors' names, journal titles, and funding sources.
Data synthesis: Using a random effects model, clinical chorioamnionitis was significantly associated with both cerebral palsy (RR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.4-2.5) and cPVL (RR, 3.0; 95% CI, 2.2-4.0) in preterm infants. The RR of histologic chorioamnionitis and cerebral palsy was 1.6 (95% CI, 0.9-2.7) in preterm infants, and histologic chorioamnionitis was significantly associated with cPVL (RR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.5-2.9). Among full-term infants, a positive association was found between clinical chorioamnionitis and cerebral palsy (RR, 4.7; 95% CI, 1.3-16.2). Factors explaining differences in study results included varying definitions of clinical chorioamnionitis, extent of blinding in determining exposure status, and whether individual studies adjusted for potential confounders.
Conclusion: Our meta-analysis indicates that chorioamnionitis is a risk factor for both cerebral palsy and cPVL. JAMA. 2000;284:1417-1424.