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Module 2: Effects of Alcohol on the Fetus

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a specific diagnosis, included in code 760.71 in the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Edition (ICD-9). FAS is the only disorder specifically mentioned in the diagnostic code description. Symptoms include neurologic, behavioral, and cognitive deficits that interfere with growth, learning, and socialization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Guidelines for Referral and Diagnosis PDF Icon. This document describes the criteria for diagnosing FAS. An FAS diagnosis requires evidence of the following three major components:

  1. Characteristic pattern of facial anomalies
  2. Growth deficiencies
  3. Central nervous system abnormalities

Image of normal and FAS faces. Discriminating features include short palpebral fissures, indistinct philtrum, and thin upper lip. The primary distinction between FAS and other conditions is the presence of specific facial features. Without these facial features, FAS cannot be diagnosed:

  • Short palpebral fissures (small eye slits)
  • Indistinct philtrum (the groove under the nose)
  • Thin upper lip

Additional facial features seen in children with FAS may include:

Image of normal and FAS faces. Associated features include epicanthal folds, ptosis (drooping eyelids), low nasal bridge, flat midface, minor ear anomalies, short nose, and micrognathia.
  • Epicanthal folds (tiny folds of tissue on the inside of the eye opening)
  • Ptosis (drooping eyelids)
  • Low nasal bridge
  • Flat midface
  • Minor ear anomalies
  • Short nose
  • Micrognathia (receding chin or underbite)

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