Zoloft and Anal Atresia
When you think of Zoloft, anal atresia may not be the first term you associate with the popular antidepressant. Zoloft, the brand name of sertraline hydrochloride, has only been on the market since the start of 1992. (1) Like other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Zoloft has been associated with birth defects. With the advent of SSRIs in the 1970s, psychiatrists found a way to treat depression and anxiety disorders with fewer side effects than the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) that preceded them. (2)
Though SSRIs like Zoloft do not call for the dietary restrictions like MAOIs or lead to the many side effects of TCAs, they do carry their own risks. One such potentialrisk for pregnant women on Zoloft is that their child may be born with no way to eliminate solid waste. In 2007, a group of researchers reported possible links between sertraline (Zoloft) and anal atresia, among other birth defects. (3)
What are the symptoms of anal atresia and how is it treated?
Anal atresia, also known as imperforate anus, can happen in a few ways: “the rectum may end in a blind pouch that does not connect with the colon. Or, it may have openings to the urethra, bladder, base of penis or scrotum in boys, or vagina in girls. A condition of stenosis (narrowing) of the anus or absence of the anus may be present.” (4) The connection between the colon and the bladder (or the colon and the urethra, the colon and the vagina, etc.) is called a fistula.
The National Library of Medicine's website lists the following as symptoms of anal atresia (4):
- Missing or misplaced opening to the anus
- No passage of first stool within 24 - 48 hours after birth
- Stool passes out of the vagina, base of penis, scrotum, or urethra
- Swollen belly area
- Anal opening very near the vaginal opening in girls
Doctors can treat anal atresia with surgery to reconstruct the anus. If the rectum connects with other organs, the surgeon will have to perform surgery on those as well. Treating an imperforate anus sometimes requires a temporary colostomy. For the colostomy, one end of the healthy colon is brought out through the abdominal wall. The edges of bowel are stitched to the skin of the abdominal wall. A bag called a stoma appliance is secured around the opening to allow stool to drain. The doctors will reattach the colon in its proper place after about 12 weeks. (5)
The treatment does not end there: “after surgery, the pediatric surgeon uses an instrument to dilate or widen the rectum and teaches the parents how to do this daily at home to prevent scar tissue from contracting.” (6)
Continuing problems for people born with an imperforate anus can include incontinence, constipation, and intestinal blockage. Studies have shown that side effects such as incontinence have a definite impact on a child's quality of life. Children with high anal atresia suffer more from incontinence than those with low anal atresia. For more information about treatment and resources for children who suffer from anal atresia, see The Colorectal Center for Children at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Did Zoloft lead to your child's anal atresia? Weitz & Luxenberg can help
Your child did not ask to be born with a challenging congenital condition, and you did not ask for it either. Paying for the multiple surgeries needed to treat an imperforate anus does not have to fall on your family.
If you took Zoloft during your pregnancy and your child was born with anal atresia, you have legal options. Contact Weitz & Luxenberg for your free legal consultation by filling out a form here on our website, or by calling 800-476-6070.
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