Thursday, February 19, 2015

Study group discussion: Teratogenic effects of warfarin

Random review questions! 

A baby is found to have stippled epiphysis, microcephaly and optic atrophy. Which drug was the mother exposed to during pregnancy which resulted in the birth defect?

Alcohol will cause microcephaly, not the other two findings.

Steroids in the first trimester?
Umm no. Steroids cause cleft palate and cataract.

Again, phenytoin will cause microcephaly, not the other two defects.

Hint: The woman said she had developed joint pain when she was young. She also had skin rash and breathlessness on activity. That's why, the doctor prescribed her monthly injections.

So she had acute rheumatic fever?

Yes, she did!

So rheumatic fever patients become breathless during pregnancy. Why?

It's not penicillin that caused the defect. It was some other drug!

Nope. Tetracyclines cause discoloration of teeth. She wasn't on antibiotics.

She also said that she consumed oral tablets during pregnancy.

Heparin or warfarin!

Warfarin correct! Heparin ain't teratogenic.

She was on a blood thinner, because of mitral stenosis due to RHD, probably wasn't informed that her medication should be changed during pregnancy.

Oh and can any guess why the neonate developed the Optic atrophy?

Warfarin makes the fetus susceptible to intraventricular hemorrhage. That's why the optic atrophy!
It's been suggested that warfarin causes repeated intracerebral hemorrhages which causes Optic atrophy, microcephaly and mental retardation.

Here's another cool fact - warfarin in early trimesters cause nasal hypoplasia and stippled epiphyses, and if taken in later trimesters cause the CNS defects.

This is so cool.

The mechanism of the first trimester defects are - Warfarin blocks protein C and S.. Which is essential in bone formation of the baby. Hence, you get nasal hypoplasia and epiphysial problems.

(UPDATE: This syndrome caused by warfarin is NOT called contradi syndrome. It's similar to Conradi-H√ľnermann syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by skeletal malformations, skin abnormalities, cataracts and short stature.)

I got a doubt - What monthly injections was the lady taking?

Well, she was taking rheumatic fever prophylaxis. Benzathine penicillin intramuscular injections to be precise!


  1. Fetal Warfarin Syndrome epiphyseal defects resemble those of the Cornadi Syndrome, a genetic disorder. They are not synonymous.

  2. Fetal Warfarin Syndrome epiphyseal defects resemble those of the Cornadi Syndrome, a genetic disorder. They are not synonymous.


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