Causal hypothesis for some congenital anomalies

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2005 Dec;8(6):543-50. doi: 10.1375/183242705774860141.


Congenital anomalies are a major cause of fetal and neonatal death and of childhood morbidity. Chromosomal and other genetic abnormalities, environmental teratogens and some nutritional deficiencies account for some congenital anomalies but the majority are of unknown etiology. The hypothesis is here proposed that a significant proportion of congenital anomalies and cerebral palsy of unknown etiology are attributable to a monozygotic multiple conception with monochorionic placentation and that these anomalies, even in singletons, may be explained by early, unrecognized or unrecorded loss of one conceptus in a monochorionic monozygotic conception. The pathological mechanism is hemodynamic instability with episodes of acute feto-fetal transfusion that produce ischemic organ impairment in either or both twins. The resultant clinical abnormality will depend on range of severity (fetal death, infant death, congenital anomaly, normal infant), site or combination of sites (which organ[s] present[s] with the congenital anomaly) and timing (early, middle or late in gestation as shown by variation in brain pathology that is observed).

Publication types

  • Review
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / pathology
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / etiology*
  • Fetal Death / pathology
  • Humans
  • Ischemia / etiology
  • Ischemia / pathology
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / complications
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Teratogens / toxicity


  • Teratogens