Background: A higher than expected rate of anophthalmia/microphthalmia (A/M) for 1999 was noted in both the Alberta Congenital Anomalies Surveillance System (ACASS) and the Canadian Congenital Anomalies Surveillance System (CCASS). Since this increase was at variance with the previous 19 years, we performed a review to determine whether the increase was true and, if so, the possible explanation.
Methods: We reviewed the records of the cases of A/M in the ACASS together with the accompanying attachments (e.g., consultant, autopsy and chromosome reports) for 1991-2001. In addition, we contacted all 91 registered ophthalmologists in Alberta. Letters were also written to the Edmonton and Calgary offices of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).
Results: Sixty cases of A/M were ascertained over the study period. Of the 88 active ophthalmologists in the province, 21 (24%) replied, but no new cases were ascertained from this source. No replies were received from the CNIB. We constructed five categories of clinical phenotypes for the 60 cases: 20 had a chromosomal etiology, 13 had a recognized syndrome or association, 16 had extraocular malformations, 5 had other eye anomalies, and 6 had A/M only. Pregnancy terminations were not included. The higher rate in 1999 was mainly due to cases with a chromosomal etiology or a recognized syndrome or association. There was no indication that a teratogen was causing a cluster of A/M cases, as our annual rates were comparable to those for other jurisdictions not only in Canada but also in other countries.
Interpretation: Our review confirmed that the rate of A/M in Alberta in 1999 was high but that the increase was mainly due to five cases of trisomy 13 together with one case associated with a syndrome (Meckel-Gruber). Our findings provide reassurance that there was no environmental cause of clustering of anophthalmia or microphthalmia. This review demonstrates the importance of ongoing population-based surveillance in providing baseline birth prevalence rates for evaluating trends and clusters.