What Is Fetal Hydantoin Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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Fetal hydantoin syndrome is a rare medical condition in which a developing fetus is exposed to a seizure medication known as phenytoin. Symptoms often include physical abnormalities, developmental delays, and slowed growth patterns. Organ damage, especially involving the circulatory and digestive systems, may be present in more severe cases of fetal hydantoin syndrome. Although there are no standard treatment options available for this condition, individual symptoms are treated as needed. Any questions or concerns about fetal hydantoin syndrome or appropriate management techniques for an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Some symptoms of fetal hydantoin syndrome may be visibly obvious at birth. Physical deformities involving the face and skull are quite common and can take on a wide variety of forms. Some of the most frequently seen physical deformities include a cleft lip or palate, low-set ears, or a broad nasal bridge. Some of the fingers may be exceptionally small, and the nails may be small or completely absent. The hip joint is frequently dislocated in the child born with fetal hydantoin syndrome.


A baby born with duodenal atresia often has a lower than normal birth weight and may have trouble gaining weight after birth as well. Feeding issues may indicate the presence of gastrointestinal disturbances such as pyloric stenosis or duodenal atresia. Pyloric stenosis causes the opening that connects the stomach to the intestines to become narrowed and often results in persistent vomiting. Duodenal atresia is a condition in which a portion of the small intestine failed to develop properly inside the womb. Both of these conditions usually require surgical intervention, and the success rates are quite high.

Problems with the circulatory system in those with fetal hydantoin syndrome may include patent ductus arteriosus or aortic valvular stenosis. Patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA, causes abnormal blood flow issues between two of the arteries in the heart. Medications are usually given to control the condition until the baby is old enough and strong enough to safely undergo corrective surgery. Aortic valvular stenosis causes the aortic valve to become narrowed, thus restricting proper blood flow throughout the body. Surgical intervention is almost always needed to correct this complication when it arises.

Additional medical issues that may be related to fetal hydantoin syndrome include mild mental delays, small nipples, and hernias. In rare cases, tumors may be present in the infant born with this condition. Bleeding or clotting issues may develop shortly after birth and may prove fatal, especially if not diagnosed and treated right away.


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