Fetal Alcohol Synodrome

Topics: Fetal alcohol syndrome, Alcohol, Alcohol abuse Pages: 31 (9689 words) Published: November 8, 2013
 Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

It sounds simple: women who drink excessively while pregnant are at high risk for giving birth to children with birth defects. Therefore, to prevent these defects, women should stop drinking alcohol during all phases of pregnancy. Alternatively, women who drink alcohol should not become pregnant unless and until they can control their drinking. More than 20 years ago, when fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was first described in the published medical literature, there were high hopes for its prevention. In fact, this has not been simple, and the biomedical and public health communities are still struggling to eliminate a birth defect that should be absolutely preventable. HISTORY

Although references to the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol can be found in classical and biblical literature, fetal alcohol syndrome was first described in the medical literature in France by Lemoine et al. in 1968. Researchers in the United States soon also published a landmark report describing a constellation of birth defects in children born to alcoholic women (Jones and Smith, 1973). FAS has since been described in most countries of the world. Briefly, FAS refers to a constellation of physical abnormalities, most obvious in the features of the face (see Figure 1-1) and in the reduced size of the newborn, and problems of behavior and cognition. These latter features lead to the most concern. The degree of abnormality in any one measure can vary greatly between individuals and can change with time in the same individual. For example, people diagnosed with FAS can have IQs from well within the normal range to the severely mentally retarded range. The physical anomalies can be slight or quite striking. Some people with FAS live fairly normal lives if given adequate and structured support throughout their lives, whereas others are severely impaired. The defects may or may not be apparent or easily diagnosed at birth. Although the manifestations of the damage might change with age, FAS never completely disappears and, as with many developmental disabilities, there is no cure, although there might be some amelioration in some individuals. FAS does not refer to signs of acute alcohol exposure or withdrawal at birth. Newborns can have blood alcohol levels high enough to affect acutely their central nervous system function and not have FAS. Newborns can also have no alcohol in their bloodstream at time of delivery but still have FAS. FAS is not a "drunk" baby. The costs of FAS and related conditions can be quite high—for the individual, for the family, and for society. Three groups have tried to estimate these costs, and these estimates vary greatly (Bloss, 1994). These estimates are problematic, because of uncertainties regarding the incidence and prevalence of FAS and uncertainties related to the full extent of health (and other) problems experienced throughout the lifetime of people with FAS. Estimates of the occurrence of FAS in North American communities range from 0 per 1,000 (incidence; Abel and Sokol, 1987, 1991) to 120 per 1,000 (prevalence; Robinson et al., 1987), although rates in several of the most complete studies are similar—on the order of 0.5 to 3 cases per 1,000 births. Assuming an annual birth cohort of approximately 4 million, this translates into 2 to 12 thousand FAS births per year in this country. As described in the report, there is a lack of longitudinal data on the extent of possible problems of adults with FAS. Therefore, cost estimates for the United States range from $75 million (Abel and Sokol, 1991) to $9.7 billion (Harwood and Napolitano, 1985). The total lifetime cost per typical case of FAS for a child born in 1980 was estimated to be $596,000 undiscounted1 (Harwood and Napolitano, 1985). These incidence and cost figures are offered not as established facts but they are intended to emphasize that regardless of the details, or any one specific estimate, the costs...

References: 4. Warren KR, Li TK; Genetic polymorphisms: impact on the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2005 Apr;73(4):195-203.
5. Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman; NICE Clinical Guideline (March 2008)
9. Astley SJ; Comparison of the 4-digit diagnostic code and the Hoyme diagnostic guidelines for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2006 Oct;118(4):1532-45.
10. A report on the 2011 general lifestyle survey - Chapter 2: Drinking, Office for National Statistics (March 2013)
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