Early Diagnosis Reduces Fetal Alcohol Damage

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES -- For babies affected in utero by maternal drinking, early diagnosis can prevent or minimize secondary disabilities that might otherwise persist for a lifetime, Ann P. Streissguth, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Along with growth retardation and distinctive facial abnormalities, the primary disabilities associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which encompasses fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder, are brain damage and dysfunction. Also, in approximately 35% of cases, there are cardiac abnormalities, said Dr. Streissguth, director of the fetal alcohol and drug unit at the University of Washington, Seattle. But the secondary effects of FASD can be just as persistent and debilitating.

In a long-term study of 415 patients born with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects, Dr. Streissguth and her colleague Dr. Kieran O'Malley found "a surprisingly high level of secondary disabilities," from drug or alcohol abuse to school expulsion, imprisonment, or confinement in a psychiatric facility (Semin. …