Objective: To test the hypothesis that fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), with the full phenotype, and fetal alcohol effect (FAE), with some but not all of the features, can be combined under the umbrella term fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
Study design: We investigated the long-term sequelae of intrauterine alcohol exposure using physical examination, psychosocial interviews, and a behavioral checklist in a 20-year follow-up study of 37 patients with FASD originally diagnosed as having FAS or FAE in infancy and childhood.
Results: Although the characteristic craniofacial malformations of FAS/FAE diminish over time, microcephaly, a poorly developed philtrum and a thin upper lip, and, to a lesser degree, short stature and underweight (in boys) persist. In females, adult body weight increases. Persistent mental handicaps, including intellectual disability, limited occupational options, and dependent living, are the major sequelae, and the scores for various behavioral problems are significantly increased.
Conclusions: The devastating effects of intrauterine exposure to alcohol persist into early adulthood and severely limit careers and independent living.