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

< Previous Next >

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

Back to Top

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

Back to Top

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

Back to Top


Kidney and Other Internal Organ Problems

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

Back to Top

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

Back to Top

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

Back to Top

< Previous Next >