Histopathological and hemodynamic studies supporting hypoxia and vascular disruption as explanation to phenytoin teratogenicity.Teratology. 1992 Nov; 46(5):485-97.T
The limb plates and craniofacial regions in rabbit fetuses were examined shortly after the last dose of phenytoin on day 16 after daily administration by gavage with either 150 mg/kg on days 14-16 or 300 mg/kg on days 15-16. Both treatment regimens resulted in similar changes. Histologically, the digital areas of the limb plates showed extensive edema and dilated blood vessels within 2 h. After 8 h, vascular disruption occurred with hemorrhages. At 24-48 h after dosing, mesenchymal necrosis and, on some occasions, amputation of digits was observed. In the craniofacial region, well-defined superficial hemorrhage was seen in the frontal and nasal region at 8 h. Histologically, subectodermal hemorrhage caused by vascular disruption and microfocal mesenchymal necrosis was observed. At 48 h, some fetuses showed severe diffuse intracranial and superficial hemorrhage, resulting in massive tissue damage, also in the central nervous system (CNS). Maternal heart rate, blood pressure, PO2, and PCO2 were also measured in awake pregnant rabbits 6 h after the last dose on day 16 after daily administration with 150 mg/kg during gestational days 14-16. An attempt was also made to measure fetal heart rate in anesthetized rabbits. The maternal heart rate and blood pressure decreased with about 15% in phenytoin-treated animals, resulting in a decrease in PO2 (approximately 15%) and an increase in PCO2 (approximately 15%). A decrease in fetal heart rate was also registered. The results thus indicate that phenytoin exerts its teratogenic effects by inducing fetal hypoxia, leading to vascular disrupture and necrosis of existing and developing structures.