Laser light scan analysis of the "anticonvulsant face"

UMMS Affiliation

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center; Shriver Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Congenital, Hereditary, and Neonatal Diseases and Abnormalities


BACKGROUND: The "anticonvulsant face," with a short nose, broad nasal bridge, epicanthal folds, and wide mouth, was described in the 1970s in children who had been exposed during pregnancy to the anticonvulsant drugs phenytoin and phenobarbital. The laser light scan makes it possible to establish three-dimensional positions of physical features and to determine more objectively the changes in the size and shape of the affected soft tissues of the faces of children exposed to these anticonvulsant drugs during pregnancy.

METHODS: Thirteen individuals, exposed throughout pregnancy to phenytoin as either monotherapy or polytherapy, were identified in a previous analysis as having significant changes in their craniofacial features based on measurements of cephalometric radiographs. Those changes were associated with midface hypoplasia and a short nose, features of the "anticonvulsant face." The soft tissues of their faces have been evaluated with laser light scans.

RESULTS: The notable changes in soft tissues identified by laser light scans were a wide philtrum (cph-cph), narrow mouth (ch-ch), short nasal bridge (n-prn), shortened nose height (n-sn), and flattened orbits (orbital protrusion index).

CONCLUSION: This analysis of the facial features of phenytoin-exposed individuals, selected because of changes in their craniofacial bony structures, showed that there were several significant changes, two of which, widening of the philtrum and a small mouth, have not been described previously as part of this phenotype.

DOI of Published Version



Orup HI Jr, Deutsch CK, Holmes LB. Laser light scan analysis of the "anticonvulsant face". Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2014 Dec;100(12):905-11. doi: 10.1002/bdra.23250. Epub 2014 May 27. PubMed PMID: 24863698; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4246044. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Birth defects research. Part A, Clinical and molecular teratology

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Link to Article in PubMed

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