Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and fetal alcohol syndrome: the state of the art and new diagnostic tools

Early Hum Dev. 2013 Jun:89 Suppl 1:S40-3. doi: 10.1016/S0378-3782(13)70013-6.


Ethanol consumption during pregnancy is a widespread problem which is increasing in the generation of young women. Gestational alcohol consumption causes fetal exposure to this teratogen and is associated with the onset of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) including fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FASD and FAS can lead to several physical, cognitive and behavioral disabilities, whose early diagnosis is of primary importance to perform primary prevention with total abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy and secondary prevention in newborns and children for a proper follow up to reduce risk of secondary consequences. In recent years significant efforts have been made to understand the underlying mechanisms of this disease and to identify objective biological and instrumental diagnostic tools, such as exposure biomarkers in neonatal meconium and advanced magnetic resonance imaging. Nonetheless, further studies are still needed to implement our knowledge on fetal effects of ethanol, and multidisciplinary actions are necessary to raise awareness among women of childbearing age about the danger of consuming even small amounts of ethanol during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / metabolism
  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Meconium / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Teratogens / toxicity*


  • Biomarkers
  • Teratogens
  • Ethanol