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Contempo Updates | Clinician's Corner

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Robert J. Sokol, MD; Virginia Delaney-Black, MD, MPH; Beth Nordstrom, PhD
JAMA. 2003;290(22):2996-2999. doi:10.1001/jama.290.22.2996.
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Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), currently considered part of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), was first described in 1973.1 Although much has been learned in 30 years, substantial challenges remain in diagnosing and preventing this disorder. Our goal is to summarize what has recently been reported with respect to fetal alcohol terminology, identification, effects, prevalence, and prevention of exposure. We will emphasize how fetal alcohol exposure is routinely underidentified and what is known about who is at risk. With this knowledge, physicians should be better able to identify at-risk pregnancies and alcohol-affected individuals and address fetal alcohol exposure in the clinical setting.

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Figure. Child With Facial Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
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The 3 features used to diagnose the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) facial phenotype are short palpebral fissures, a smooth philtrum, and a thin upper lip, as exhibited by this child. Other minor facial anomalies may be also present in children with FAS. Reproduced with permission from Susan Astley, PhD, Director of the Washington State Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic and Prevention Network.

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