January 12, 2015
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Fetal alcohol syndrome diagnosis missed in adopted children

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Over 85% of foster and adopted youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders were not previously diagnosed or were misdiagnosed with behavioral problems.

Ira J. Chasnoff, MD, of the Children’s Research Triangle in Chicago, and colleagues collected data from 547 children there, according to data published in the journal Pediatrics.

Ira J. Chasnoff

Of 156 children and adolescents who fit into the fetal alcohol spectrum, 125 (80.1%) were never diagnosed with prenatal alcohol exposure.

Most of the youth had missed diagnoses (80.1%) and 6.4% of them were misdiagnosed, according to data. Another 21 (13.5%) diagnoses remained unchanged.

Of 156 children with an FASD diagnosis, 147 (94.2%) also had a mental health diagnosis; 104 (66.7%) had two or more mental health diagnoses in addition to the alcohol exposure, according to data.

The delay or incorrect diagnosis may lead to a higher incidence of secondary disabilities and greater need for special education services, the researchers wrote.

“Prenatal alcohol exposure needs to be considered when formulating any differential diagnosis for which a child or adolescent is experiencing behavioral, learning or mental health problems,” Chasnoff told Healio Psychiatry. – by Samantha Costa

Disclosure: This study was supported by a grant from the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.