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Skip Navigation LinksFASD The Course > Module 2: Effects of Alcohol on the Fetus > 11. Organ and Skeletal Damage

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Module 2: Effects of Alcohol on the Fetus

Click to Enlarge / Diagram of internal organs

Organ and Skeletal Damage

Prenatal alcohol exposure can lead to growth deficiencies such as:

  • Low birth weight
  • Failure to gain weight over time, not due to malnutrition
  • Disproportionately low weight to height
  • Low length/height or weight in first year of life, especially below the 10th percentile

The skeletal system and organs may also be affected in the following ways:


Skeletal Abnormalities

Curvature of the spine
  • Underdeveloped nails
  • Shortened fifth digits
  • Fused bones in forearms, fingers, toes, hands
  • Bent fingers
  • Permanent bending of one or more finger joints
  • Sunken chest or protrusion of the chest over the sternum
  • Fusion of any two neck vertebrae
  • Failure of one side of a vertebra to form normally
  • Curvature of the spine

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Click to Enlarge / Heart Defects

Heart Defects

  • Atrial septal defect (failure of the wall between the right and left atria to close completely)
  • Ventricular septal defect (a hole in the wall between the lower chambers)
  • Abnormal great vessels
  • Tetralogy of Fallot, a group of four heart defects involving the ventricles and arteries

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Craniofacial Anomalies

Image of normal and FAS faces. Discriminating features include short palpebral fissures, indistinct philtrum, and thin upper lip.
  • Cleft palate
  • Small eye openings
  • Thin upper lip
  • Smooth philtrum (the groove under the nose)
  • Flat midface
  • Pointed chin

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Kidneys

Kidney and Other Internal Organ Problems

  • Defective kidney function
  • Abnormal growth or underdeveloped kidneys
  • Horseshoe kidneys
  • Ureteral duplications
  • Cysts caused by obstructed urine flow

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Respiratory system

Respiratory Dysfunction

  • Inhibited cell growth, resulting in underdeveloped lungs
  • Tendency to get lung disease
  • More frequent and severe lower respiratory infections in children

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Vision and Hearing Problems

Click to Enlarge / Diagram of eye
  • Misalignment of the eyes
  • Retinal vessel anomalies
  • Lens flaws
  • Cornea deformities
  • Refractive problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Auditory processing problems

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