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Ann Genet. 2001 Jan-Mar;44(1):19-24.

On the symmetry of limb deficiencies among children with multiple congenital anomalies.

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Service de génétique médicale, hôpital de Hautepierre, 67085, Strasbourg, France.


In humans, unpaired organs are placed in a highly ordered pattern along the left-right axis. As indicated by animal studies, a cascade of signaling molecules establish left-right asymmetry in the developing embryo. Some of the same genes are involved also in limb patterning. To provide a better insight into the connection between these processes in humans, we analysed the symmetry of limb deficiencies among infants with multiple congenital anomalies. The study was based on data collected by the International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Monitoring Systems (ICBDMS). Registries of the ICBDMS provided information on infants who, in addition to a limb deficiency, also had at least one major congenital anomaly in other organ systems. We reviewed 815 such cases of which 149 cases (18.3 %) were syndromic and 666 (81.7 %) were nonsyndromic. The comparisons were made within the associated limb deficiencies, considering the information on symmetry, using a comparison group with malformations associated not involved in the index association. Among the non-syndromic cases, the left-right distribution of limb deficiencies did not differ appreciably between limb deficiency subtypes (e.g., preaxial, transverse, longitudinal). The left-right distribution of limb anomalies did not differ among most types of non-limb anomalies, though a predominance of left-sided limb deficiencies was observed in the presence of severe genital defects - odds ratio [OR], 2.6; 95 % CI, 1.1-6.4). Limb deficiencies (LDs) were more often unilateral than bilateral when accompanied by gastroschisis (OR, 0.1) or axial skeletal defects (OR, 0.5). On the contrary, LDs were more often bilateral than unilateral when associated with cleft lip with or without cleft palate (OR, 3.9) or micrognathia (OR, 2.6). Specifically, we found an association between bilateral preaxial deficiencies and cleft lip, bilateral amelia with gastroschisis and urinary tract anomalies, and bilateral transverse deficiencies and gastroschisis and axial skeleton defects. Of 149 syndromic cases, 62 (41.6 %) were diagnosed as trisomy 18. Out of the 30 cases of trisomy 18 with known laterality, 20 cases were bilateral. In the remainder the right and left sides were equally affected. Also, in most cases (74.4 %) only the upper limbs were involved. In conclusion the left-right distribution of limb deficiencies among some non-limb anomalies may suggest a relationship between the development of the limb and the left-right axis of the embryo.

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