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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2004 Aug;46(8):520-5.

Is exposure to cocaine or cigarette smoke during pregnancy associated with infant visual abnormalities?

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  • 1Growth and Development Centre, University Children's Hospital Zurich, Switzerland.


The aim of this study was to assess the association between cocaine or cigarette smoke exposure in utero and visual outcome. A total of 153 healthy infants (89 males, 64 females; gestational age range 34 to 42 weeks) were prospectively enrolled in a masked, race-matched study. Quantitative analyses of urine and meconium were used to document exposure to cigarette smoke and cocaine. Infants with exposure to other illicit drugs, excepting marijuana, were excluded. At 6 weeks of age, grating acuity and visual system abnormalities (VSA; eyelid oedema, gaze abnormalities, and visual inattention) of 96 infants from the original study sample were assessed with the Teller acuity card procedure and a detailed neurological examination. Neither cocaine nor cigarette smoke exposure was associated with acuity or VSA. However, VSAs were associated with abnormal neurological examination, independent of drug exposure and other risk factors (odds ratio 7.9; 95% confidence interval 2.0 to 31.5;p=0.004). This unexpected finding could prove a helpful clinical marker for the infant at risk for neurological abnormalities.

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