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Release No: 644-97
December 01, 1997


A new study entitled, "Goldenhar Syndrome Among Infants Born in Military Hospitals to Gulf War Veterans" by Maria Rosario G. Araneta, Ph.D., M.P.H. et. al., from the Naval Health Research Center and collaborators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was published Dec. 1 in the scientific journal "Teratology."

The study was initiated in October 1995 in response to Gulf War veterans' concerns about a possible excess of Goldenhar syndrome among their infants. Goldenhar syndrome is a rare birth defect characterized by eye, jaw, and spine malformations. The study included 75,414 infants who were conceived after the Gulf War and were born in military hospitals prior to October 1, 1993. The rate of the syndrome among infants of Gulf War veterans was 14.7 per 100,000 (five cases in 34,069 infants), compared to a rate of 4.8 per 100,000 among infants of veterans who did not deploy to the Gulf (two cases in 41,345 infants). However, this result is inconclusive. Because of the small number of cases (seven) found by the study, the statistical precision of the study is low, and it is not possible to conclude solely from this study whether there is a higher, or lower, risk for Goldenhar syndrome among the infants of Gulf War veterans.

Earlier this year, a study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine by David Cowan, Ph.D. et. al., which stated that children of veterans were not at increased overall risk of birth defects nor are these children at increased risk for a group of congenital malformations defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being severe and of potential public health concern. To further determine the prevalence of birth defects among Gulf War veterans, DoD and CDC researchers have been collaborating with seven state health departments which conduct studies on populations with birth defects. One study will evaluate births in military and nonmilitary hospitals, including infants born to veterans who have separated from the military, and will be able to compare rates of selected birth defects among infants born before and after the Gulf war. Additionally, other research studies are being conducted by federal and non-governmental organizations in the United States and the United Kingdom to investigate other reproductive and perinatal outcomes among families of Gulf War veterans.

For those interested in obtaining further information concerning this paper, visit the GulfLINK World Wide Web site (http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/). Copies of the paper can be obtained from "Teratology," attention Susan Spilka at 212-850-6147.

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