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OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that liveborn infants conceived by intracytoplasmic sperm injection are at an increased risk of having a major birth defect. DESIGN: Reclassification of the birth defects reported in infants born after intracytoplasmic sperm injection in Belgium and comparison with prevalence estimated in Western Australian population by means of same classification system. SETTING AND SUBJECTS: 420 liveborn infants who were conceived after intracytoplasmic sperm injection in Belgium and 100,454 liveborn infants in Western Australia delivered during the same period. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Estimates of birth prevalence of birth defects and comparisons of odds ratios between cohort conceived after intracytoplasmic sperm injection and Western Australian infants. RESULTS: Infants born after intracytoplasmic sperm injection were twice as likely as Western Australian infants to have a major birth defect (odds ratio 2.03 (95% confidence interval 1.40 to 2.93); P = 0.0002) and nearly 50% more likely to have a minor defect (1.49 (0.48 to 4.66); P = 0.49). Secondary data-led analyses, to be interpreted with caution, found an excess of major cardiovascular defects (odds ratio 3.99), genitourinary defects (1.33), and gastrointestinal defects (1.84), in particular cleft palate (5.11) and diaphragmatic hernia (7.73). CONCLUSIONS: These results do not confirm the apparently reassuring results published by the Belgian researchers of intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Further research is clearly required. Meanwhile, doctors practising intracytoplasmic sperm injection should bear this alternative interpretation in mind when they counsel couples and obtain informed consent for the procedure.


Journal article



Publication Date





1260 - 1265


Adolescent, Adult, Belgium, Child, Congenital Abnormalities, Digestive System Abnormalities, Female, Fertilization in Vitro, Heart Defects, Congenital, Humans, Male, Microinjections, Middle Aged, Oligospermia, Oocytes, Pregnancy, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Spermatozoa, Urogenital Abnormalities, Western Australia