Brain and ocular abnormalities in infants with in utero exposure to cocaine and other street drugs

Am J Dis Child. 1991 Jun;145(6):688-95. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1991.02160060106030.


We describe 10 infants with developmental delay and congenital cerebral anomalies who were found to have had in utero exposure to vasoactive drugs. Nine infants had ophthalmological abnormalities; these included strabismus, nystagmus, and/or hypoplastic optic discs. Six mothers used cocaine, one used cocaine and heroin, one used only heroin, one used amphetamine, and one used phenylpropanolamine. Each of these cerebral anomalies (agenesis of the corpus callosum, septo-optic dysplasia, schizencephaly, hydranencephaly, congenital hydrocephalus, porencephaly, and cerebral infarctions) can be attributed to insults at different stages of development. There appears to be a relationship between the time of prenatal drug exposure and the type of cerebral anomaly, evoking malformations, disruptions, or fetal strokes. Since many or possibly all of these anomalies are thought to have a vascular origin, it seems appropriate to implicate prenatal exposure to vasoactive drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Ataxia / chemically induced
  • Brain / abnormalities
  • Brain Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Brain Diseases / congenital
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cocaine*
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology
  • Eye Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Eye Diseases / congenital
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Strabismus / congenital
  • Strabismus / etiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Cocaine