Failure to recognize fetal alcohol syndrome in newborn infants

Am J Dis Child. 1990 Oct;144(10):1142-6. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1990.02150340088030.


A clinically distinct constellation of major and minor anomalies, termed the fetal alcohol syndrome, occurs among infants whose mothers abuse alcohol during pregnancy. In addition, significantly higher rates of pregnancy complications, including perinatal deaths and fetal growth retardation, occur among these women and their offspring. We studied the medical records of 40 infants born to 38 alcohol abusers and the frequency of characteristics associated with fetal alcohol syndrome. Physical examinations of 6 infants revealed primary features consistent with a diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome. Postnatal growth and development were very poor in 17 (50%) of 34 liveborn alcohol-exposed infants. The diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome did not appear in the medical records of any of these infants despite the fact that the mothers' obstetric records included a history of alcohol abuse during pregnancy. This finding emphasizes the importance of good communication between obstetric and pediatric medical staff at this hospital, particularly when providing care for pregnant women and newborn infants at high risk for complications due to maternal alcohol or other drug abuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prevalence
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Texas / epidemiology