Newswise — October 20, 2021 – Infants conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be at increased risk of a type of skull deformity called craniosynostosis, suggests a study in The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, under the guidance of Editor-in-Chief Mutaz Habal, MD, and published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

While confirmation is needed, the study adds to previous evidence linking IVF to an increased prevalence of craniosynostosis, according to the report by an Iranian research group. The lead author was Abdoljalil Kalantar Hormozi, MD, of Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran.

Four percent rate of IVF among infants undergoing craniosynostosis surgery

Craniosynostosis is a congenital deformity occurring when the joints (sutures) between the bones of the skull close prematurely. Although craniosynostosis can occur as of part of genetic disorders consisting of multiple defects, most affected infants have nonsyndromic craniosynostosis, with no other deformities. Without corrective surgery, craniosynostosis can lead to injury or inadequate development of the growing brain.

In most cases, the cause of craniosynostosis is unknown. Some recent studies have suggested that assisted reproductive techniques – with IVF being most common – may be a risk factor for craniosynostosis. However, other studies have found no such association.

To further explore this link, Dr. Hormozi and colleagues evaluated 200 infants who underwent corrective surgery for craniosynostosis at one Tehran reconstructive plastic surgery department between 2010 and 2019. All infants had nonsyndromic craniosynostosis. In interviews, parents were asked about the use of assisted reproductive technologies, including IVF.

Eight of the 200 infants were conceived by IVF, for a four percent prevalence of craniosynostosis. By comparison, previous studies have estimated that craniosynostosis occurs at a rate of one case per 1,800 to 2,200 births. The mothers of infants with craniosynostosis were older than mothers of unaffected infants: average age 39 versus 27 years.

In all affected infants, mothers received clomiphene citrate, a medication routinely used to induce ovulation for IVF. Specific types of craniosynostosis were similar for infants conceived by IVF compared to the overall group.

The authors acknowledge some key limitations of their study – particularly the absence of a comparison group of infants without craniosynostosis. "Without a control group, we are not able report the statistical results confirming or denying a link between craniosynostosis and infertility treatment," Dr. Hormozi and coauthors write.

"However, the four percent prevalence of IVF use among craniosynostosis patients is considerable," the researchers add. They emphasize the need for further studies including larger numbers of infants and appropriate comparison groups to clarify the true association, if any, between IVF and other infertility treatments and the risk of craniosynostosis in infants.

Click here to read “The Effect of Using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) on Increasing the Prevalence of Craniosynostosis”

DOI: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000008188


About The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery

The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery serves as a forum of communication for all those involved in craniofacial and maxillofacial surgery. Coverage ranges from practical aspects of craniofacial surgery to the basic science that underlies surgical practice. Affiliates include 14 major specialty societies around the world, including the American Association of Pediatric Plastic Surgeons, the American Academy of Pediatrics Section of Pediatric Plastic Surgery, the American Society of Craniofacial Surgeons, the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, the Argentine Society of Plastic Surgery Section of Pediatric Plastic Surgery, the Asian Pacific Craniofacial Association, the Association of Military Plastic Surgeons of the U.S., the Brazilian Society of Craniofacial Surgeons, the European Society of Craniofacial Surgery, the International Society of Craniofacial Surgery, the Japanese Society of Craniofacial Surgery, the Korean Society of Craniofacial Surgery, the Thai Cleft and Craniofacial Association, and the World Craniofacial Foundation.

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Journal Link: The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery