WILMINGTON, Del. – In light of the growing number of Americans grappling with fentanyl addiction, doctors have started to observe a pattern of birth defects in babies born to mothers who used this potent opioid during pregnancy. This discovery was reported in Genetics in Medicine Open, unveiling a new syndrome characterized by distinct facial features and birth defects.
Dr. Karen W. Gripp, the study’s senior author, noted that these infants displayed common traits such as small heads, short stature, and distinctive facial characteristics. Additionally, many of them had cleft palates, unique foot deformities referred to as “rocker bottom” feet, and abnormalities in their genital organs. Short, broad thumbs, a single palmar crease, and fused toes were other recurring features.
“Given the fentanyl use epidemic, it is important to recognize this condition,” Gripp said. “This novel condition may impact many infants in life-changing ways.”
The investigation took root when medical professionals at Delaware’s Nemours Children’s Hospital began noticing these atypical birth defects in mid-2022. Among the ten infants initially studied, six are still under the care of the Nemours medical team, three are being monitored by hospital systems in different states, and one died.
Gripp also noted that future research could confirm more details about this new syndrome.