However, Dr Florence Belva told a news briefing that, in line with previous studies of children conceived using intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), the study showed a slightly higher rate of major congenital malformations. She suggested this could be related to the genetic background of the parents rather than to the ICSI technique.
Dr Belva, a paediatrician and research assistant at the Centre for Medical Genetics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, said: "Since the introduction of ICSI in 1991 concerns remain about its potential risks for the health and future fertility of offspring. Several studies investigated medical outcome from birth up to the age of five years with reassuring findings. This is the first study to look at the health of ICSI children at the age of eight, just before the onset of puberty."
The researchers carried out a detailed physical and neurological examination of 150 ICSI children (76 boys, 74 girls) and compared them with 147 children (76 boys, 71 girls) born without assisted conception. The children were Dutch-speaking, singletons, with at least one European parent, and who were not extremely prematurely born.
Dr Belva said: "Major congenital malformations were defined as those causing functional impairment and/or needing surgical correction; all the rest were minor malformations." Examples of major malformations included dextrocardia (where the apex of the heart points to the right instead of the left), large port wine mark (naevus flammeus), groin hernia, squint and problems associated with the ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Examples of minor malformations included ear abnormalitie
Contact: Emma Mason
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology