A DTI-based tractography study of effects on brain structure associated with prenatal alcohol exposure in newborns.
OBJECTIVE Alcohol has been shown to have teratogenic effects on the fetal central nervous system. However, little research has been done to assess the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure on premature infants, a group particularly vulnerable to perinatal brain injury. METHODS We examined the relation between maternal alcohol use and the most common forms of brain injury in premature infants--germinal matrix/intraventricular hemorrhage (GM/IVH) and white-matter damage--in a large population-based cohort of infants weighing 2000 g or less. The analyses included 349 infants younger than 31 weeks' gestation who received at least one cranial ultrasound scan and whose mothers were queried about prenatal alcohol use in a postpartum interview. RESULTS Infants of mothers who reported "moderate" alcohol use (fewer than seven drinks per week and fewer than three drinks per occasion) to "high" use (seven or more drinks per week and/or three or more drinks per occasion) before recognized pregnancy, and moderate alcohol use during pregnancy, were not at increased risk for brain injury. However, after controlling for potentially confounding factors, infants of women reporting high alcohol use during pregnancy were at increased risk of developing isolated brain hemorrhage (odds ratio [OR] = 5.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.2, 24.7), any brain hemorrhage (OR = 6.7, 95% CI = 1.8, 26.4), and white-matter damage (OR = 9.5, 95% CI = 1.9, 46.4). CONCLUSION Premature infants of women who report consuming seven or more drinks per week and/or three or more drinks per occasion during pregnancy have substantially elevated risks of both of the most common forms of brain injury in premature infants.