Iatrogenic Disorders of the Fetus

  • E. George Kassner
  • Jack O. Haller
Part of the Radiology of Iatrogenic Disorders book series (IATROGENIC)


Before the thalidomide disaster of the early 1960s it was commonly believed that the placental barrier effectively protected the fetus1 from drugs given to the mother. It is now known that virtually all unbound chemicals in maternal plasma can pass across the human placenta to enter the fetal circulation.2 Although no common drug in current use has the awesome teratogenic potential of thalidomide, there is widespead concern that some drugs used by pregnant women may be relatively weak teratogens whose effects can easily go undetected, especially if there is a long latent period before they become manifest.3 Even a potent teratogen may be overlooked for some time. For example, the teratogenicity of diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was widely used to prevent abortions from 1940 to 1960, was not appreciated until 1971 when a rare cancer (adenocarcinoma of the vagina and cervix) was found in a cluster of girls who had been exposed in utero; the capacity of DES to cause impaired fertility and genital malformations in a large percentage of male and female offspring has only recently been recognized. The teratogenicity of a drug widely used for thousands of years—a potent teratogen which produces a distinctive syndrome of structural and functional aberrations in 30–50% of the offspring of habitual users—was not appreciated until the early 1970s: ethyl alcohol.


Obstet Gynecol Cleft Palate Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Fetal Exposure Clear Cell Adenocarcinoma 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. George Kassner
  • Jack O. Haller

There are no affiliations available

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