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Teratology. 2002 Jul;66(1):19-23.

Effect of prenatal exposure to anticonvulsant drugs on dermal ridge patterns of fingers.

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Genetics and Teratology Unit, Pediatric Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114-2606, USA.



An altered frequency of specific dermal ridge patterns on fingertips, such as an increased number of arches, has been observed in children exposed in utero to anticonvulsants and other teratogens. Asymmetry of the distribution of dermal ridge patterns has been attributed to environmental exposures and genetic factors.


We evaluated all of the dermal ridge patterns of 66 children who had been exposed to either the anticonvulsant phenytoin alone or phenytoin and phenobarbital. We determined the frequency of each pattern, concordance between the fingers on the left and right hands, sex differences and total ridge counts in the drug-exposed children and compared them to the findings in 716 unexposed comparison children. The frequency of each pattern was established in comparison to the most common type of pattern (ulnar loop), which showed that there were alterations in the frequency of arches, radial loops and whorls on specific fingers.


Eight (12.1%) of 66 children had three or more arch patterns, with all but one having been exposed to phenytoin and phenobarbital. Only one of these eight children was considered by the masked examiner to have fingernail hypoplasia. There was no evidence of asymmetry in the anticonvulsant-exposed children. There were minor differences in the distribution of total ridge count.


Subtle differences in several dermal ridge patterns, not just arch patterns, were present in anticonvulsant-exposed children, primarily in those exposed to polytherapy: phenytoin and phenobarbital.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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