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J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2002 Sep;24(9):705-9.

Proinflammatory cytokines: a link between chorioamnionitis and fetal brain injury.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON.



To review the etiology of impaired fetal neurodevelopment - in particular, the relationship between chorioamnionitis, cytokines, and cerebral palsy.


A MEDLINE search was performed for all clinical and basic science studies published in the English literature from 1966 to 2002. Key words or phrases used were chorioamnionitis, cerebral palsy, fetal brain damage, fetal CNS injury, infection in pregnancy, proinflammatory cytokines in pregnancy, proinflammatory cytokines in infection, and preterm labour or birth. All relevant human and animal studies were included.


Fetal brain injury remains a major cause of lifelong morbidity, incurring significant societal and health care costs. It has been postulated that chorioamnionitis stimulates maternal/fetal proinflammatory cytokine release, which is damaging to the developing fetal nervous system. Elevated cytokine concentrations may interfere with glial cell development and proliferation in the late second trimester of pregnancy, when the central nervous system is most vulnerable. Increasing numbers of epidemiological and basic science studies found through MEDLINE searches support this hypothesis. Treatment options aimed at etiologic factors may lead to improved neurodevelopmental outcomes.


Clearly, some relationship exists between chorioamnionitis, cytokines, and the development of cerebral palsy, but the severity and duration of exposure required to produce fetal damage remains unknown. Future research addressing these issues may aid in clinical decision-making. As well, the elucidation of mechanisms of cytokine action may aid in early treatment options to prevent or limit development of fetal brain injury.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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