Cerebral ultrasound findings in infants exposed to crack cocaine during gestation

Pediatr Radiol. 2013 Jan;43(2):212-8. doi: 10.1007/s00247-012-2528-6. Epub 2012 Nov 15.


Background: Prenatal exposure to cocaine has been associated with a wide spectrum of structural abnormalities in infant brains. The growing use of crack, a smokable and extremely addictive form of cocaine, could exacerbate the situation.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency, type and severity of cerebral lesions detected by transfontanellar US in newborns exposed to crack during gestation.

Materials and methods: This was a retrospective study, involving a review of the medical records of children who were born to crack-using women and who were subjected to transfontanellar US imaging during their first days of life.

Results: Transfontanellar US revealed abnormalities in 45/129 newborns examined (34.9%). The changes detected were subependymal cysts in 24 infants (18.6%), lenticulostriate vasculopathy in 18 infants (14%), subependymal hemorrhage in 9 infants (7%), and choroid plexus cysts in 9 infants (7%).

Conclusion: All of the abnormalities found by US examination were discrete and likely without clinical significance for the babies. However, prospective studies with a long period of tracking are needed to determine whether there are later consequences on the neurodevelopment of children with prenatal exposure to crack.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Diseases / embryology
  • Crack Cocaine / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / diagnosis*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods*


  • Crack Cocaine