Maternal phenylketonuria syndrome: Congenital heart defects, microcephaly, and developmental outcomes

Bobbye Rouse, Reuben Matalon, Richard Koch, Colleen Azen, Harvey Levy, William Hanley, Frederick Trefz, Felix De La Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations


Objective: A cohort of women with phenylketonuria (PKU) were selected to explore the impact of phenylalanine (Phe) levels and other factors on congenital heart defects (CHDs), microcephaly, and development of their offspring. Study design: Three hundred fifty-four women with PKU were followed up weekly with diet records, blood Phe levels, and sonograms obtained at 18 to 20 and 32 weeks' gestation. At birth, 413 offspring were examined and followed up at 6 months and annually by means of Bayley Mental Developmental Index and Psychomotor Developmental Index tests at 1 and 2 years. The women had Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales and DNA testing. Results: Thirty-one offspring had CHDs; of these, 17 also had microcephaly. Mean Phe levels at 4 to 8 weeks' gestation predicted CHDs (P < .0001). An infant with a CHD had a 3-fold risk of having microcephaly when the mother had higher Phe levels (P = .02). The Bayley Mental Developmental Index and Psychomotor Developmental Index scores correlated with both CHDs (P = .037 and .0015, respectively) and microcephaly (P = .0001 for both). No direct relationship to the PKU mutation was found. Conclusion: None of the women whose offspring had CHDs had blood Phe levels in control during the first 8 weeks of gestation. Women with PKU need to be well controlled on a low- phenylalanine diet before conception and throughout pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-61
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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