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Infant mortality and congenital anomalies from 1950 to 1994: an international perspective
  1. Aldo Rosanoa,
  2. Lorenzo D Bottob,
  3. Beverley Bottingc,
  4. Pierpaolo Mastroiacovoa,d
  1. aInternational Centre for Birth Defects, Rome, Italy, bDivision of Birth Defects and Pediatric Genetics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA, cOffice For National Statistics, London, dPaediatric Department of Catholic University, Rome, Italy
  1. Dr Mastroiacovo, International Centre for Birth Defects, Via Pilo Albertelli 9, 00195, Rome, Italy (a.rosano{at}


STUDY OBJECTIVE To provide an international perspective on the impact of congenital anomalies on infant mortality from 1950 to 1994.

DESIGN Population-based study based on data obtained from vital statistics reported to the World Health Organisation.

SETTINGS 36 countries from Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, Asia, and the South Pacific.

RESULTS On average, infant mortality declined 68.8 per cent from 1950 to 1994. In the countries studied, infant mortality attributable to congenital anomalies decreased by 33.4 per cent, although it recently increased in some countries in Central and Latin America and in Eastern Europe. Anomalies of the heart and of the central nervous system accounted for 48.9 per cent of infant deaths attributable to congenital anomalies. During 1990–1994, infant mortality attributable to congenital anomalies was inversely correlated to the per capita gross domestic product in the countries studied. At the same time, the proportion of infant deaths attributable to congenital malformations was directly correlated with the per capita gross domestic product.

CONCLUSIONS Congenital malformations account for an increasing proportion of infant deaths in both developed and developing countries. Infant mortality attributable to congenital anomalies is higher in poorer countries although as a proportion of infant deaths it is greater in wealthier countries. Conditions such as spina bifida, whose occurrence can be reduced through preventive strategies, still cause many infant deaths. The apparent increase of infant mortality because of congenital anomalies in some countries should be investigated to confirm the finding, find the causes, and provide prevention opportunities.

  • congenital anomalies
  • infant mortality
  • spina bifida

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  • Conflicts of interest: none.