The remarkably high prevalence of epilepsy and seizure history in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2010 Jun;34(6):1084-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01184.x. Epub 2010 Apr 5.


Background: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the umbrella term that describes the range of adverse developmental outcomes that may occur in the offspring of mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy. FASD is associated with several comorbidities including epilepsy. The objective of the study was to evaluate the prevalence of epilepsy or a history of seizures in subjects with FASD and the contribution of relevant risk factors.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted on all active charts (N = 1063) at two FASD clinics. After exclusion of subjects without a confirmed diagnosis, a total of 425 subjects between the ages of 2-49 were included in the analysis. The relationships between FASD diagnosis and other risk factors for co-occurrence of epilepsy or a seizure disorder (e.g., extent of exposure to alcohol and other drugs, type of birth, and trauma) were examined using chi-square and multivariate multinomial logistic regression.

Results: Twenty-five (5.9%) individuals in the study population had a confirmed diagnosis of epilepsy, and 50 (11.8%) had at least one documented seizure episode, yielding an overall prevalence of 17.7% in this population. Importantly, a history of epilepsy or seizures was not different across the three diagnostic subgroups. In those subjects with available maternal drinking histories, first trimester exposure or drinking throughout all three trimesters were the predominant forms of fetal exposure. None of the other risk factors were associated with a greater prevalence of epilepsy or seizures.

Conclusions: There is a remarkably high prevalence of epilepsy/seizures in the FASD population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Seizures / epidemiology*
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Young Adult