Facial features of infants exposed prenatally to cocaine

Teratology. 1993 Nov;48(5):413-20. doi: 10.1002/tera.1420480505.


Thirty two infants referred for in-patient genetics evaluation at the University of California at San Francisco, 1987-1992, were found to have a history of maternal cocaine use. Genetics reports and medical records were reviewed on all these infants to identify features distinctive for cocaine exposure. Among these 32 cases, 14 infants were exposed only to cocaine; 18 were exposed to alcohol and cocaine. The infants evaluated displayed a distinctive phenotype, consisting of neurologic irritability, large fontanels, prominent glabella, marked periorbital and eyelid edema, low nasal bridge with transverse crease, short nose, lateral soft tissue nasal buildup, and small toenails. Features consistent with the fetal alcohol syndrome appeared distinct and coexistent with the other described facial findings. Other severe abnormalities included cleft lip/palate, atypical facial cleft, abnormal BSER, intraventricular hemorrhages, arthrogryposes, and genitourinary abnormalities. Forty percent of the infants were born prematurely; 28% were small for gestational age; 43% showed head circumference values less than the 10th percentile. We conclude that these findings may be distinctive for a diagnosis of fetal cocaine syndrome; such findings should be further established by a future blinded prospective study of mothers and neonates.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism
  • Anthropometry
  • Birth Weight / drug effects*
  • Cocaine / adverse effects*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Face / abnormalities*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders


  • Ethanol
  • Cocaine