Medical comorbidities in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders: a systematic review

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017 Sep;26(9):1093-1103. doi: 10.1007/s00787-017-1020-0. Epub 2017 Jul 3.


Somatic disorders occur more often in adult psychiatric patients than in the general adult population. However, in child and adolescent psychiatry this association is unclear, mainly due to a lack of integration of existing data. To address this issue, we here present a systematic review on medical comorbidity in the two major developmental disorders autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and formulate clinical recommendations. The literature was searched using the PubMed and PsycINFO databases (2000-1 May 2016) with the keywords "[((child and adolescent) AND (Autism OR Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder* OR ADHD)) AND ("Cardiovascular Diseases" [Mesh] OR "Endocrine System Diseases" [Mesh] OR "Immune System Diseases" [Mesh] OR "Neurobehavioral Manifestations" [Mesh] OR "Gastrointestinal Disorders" [Mesh] OR Somatic OR Autoimmune disease OR Nervous system disease OR Infection OR Infectious disease)]. Two raters independently assessed the quality of the eligible studies. The initial search identified 5278 articles. Based on inclusion and exclusion criteria 104 papers were selected and subsequently subjected to a quality control. This quality was assessed according to a standardized and validated set of criteria and yielded 29 studies for inclusion. This thorough literature search provides an overview of relevant articles on medical comorbidity in ADHD and/or ASD, and shows that medical disorders in these children and adolescents appear to be widespread. Those who work with children with ASD and/or ADHD should be well aware of this and actively promote routine medical assessment. Additionally, case-control studies and population-based studies are needed to provide reliable prevalence estimates. Future studies should furthermore focus on a broader evaluation of medical disorders in children and adolescents with ADHD and/or ASD to improve treatment algorithm in this vulnerable group.

Keywords: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Autism spectrum disorder; Child and adolescent psychiatry; Comorbidity; Developmental disorders; Medical disorders.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity / trends*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male