Purpose: To provide insight into the possible etiology and prevalence of heterotaxy, we studied conditions associated with heterotaxy in a consecutive hospital population of newborns.
Methods: From 1972 to March, 1999 (except February 16, 1972 to December 31, 1978), 58 cases of heterotaxy were ascertained from a cohort of 201,084 births in the ongoing Active Malformation Surveillance Program at the Brigham and Women's Hospital. This registry includes livebirths, stillbirths, and elective abortions. Prevalence among nontransfers (i.e., patients whose mothers had planned delivery at this hospital) was calculated as approximately 1 per 10,000 total births (20 of 201,084).
Results: We analyzed a total of 58 patients consisting of 20 (34%) nontransfers and 38 (66%) transfers. Patients were categorized by spleen status as having asplenia (7 nontransfers, 25 total), polysplenia (8, 20), right spleen (4, 11), normal left (0, 1), and unknown (1, 0). Among the 20 nontransfer and 59 total heterotaxy patients, the following associated medical conditions were present: chromosome abnormality (1 nontransfer, 2 total), suspected Mendelian or chromosome microdeletion disorder (1 nontransfer, 6 total), and maternal insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (1 nontransfer, 2 total). There were 6 twins (1 member each from 6 twin pairs including 1 dizygous, 4 monozygous, 1 conjoined; 2 were nontransfers). An associated condition occurred in 5 (25%) nontransfer and 16 (28%) total patients, or among 10 of 53 singleton births (19%).
Conclusions: Although most cases of heterotaxy in this series were sporadic events, an associated condition was present in about one-fourth of the cases. Not all of these conditions would be considered causative etiologies. Based on this small series alone, maternal insulin-dependent diabetes cannot be viewed as a risk factor for heterotaxy. However, the specific association of diabetes with polysplenia with/without left atrial isomerism is noteworthy, and adds weight to animal and epidemiologic case-control data.