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1.  Recommendations from a consensus development workshop on the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:156.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are underdiagnosed in Australia, and health professionals have endorsed the need for national guidelines for diagnosis. The aim of this study was to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
A panel of 13 health professionals, researchers, and consumer and community representatives with relevant expertise attended a 2-day consensus development workshop to review evidence on the screening and diagnosis of FASD obtained from a systematic literature review, a national survey of health professionals and community group discussions. The nominal group technique and facilitated discussion were used to review the evidence on screening and diagnosis, and to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
The use of population-based screening for FASD was not recommended. However, there was consensus support for the development of standard criteria for referral for specialist diagnostic assessment. Participants developed consensus recommendations for diagnostic categories, criteria and assessment methods, based on the adaption of elements from both the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code and the Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis. Panel members also recommended the development of resources to: facilitate consistency in referral and diagnostic practices, including comprehensive clinical guidelines and assessment instruments; and to support individuals undergoing assessment and their parents or carers.
These consensus recommendations provide a foundation for the development of guidelines and other resources to promote consistency in the diagnosis of FASD in Australia. Guidelines for diagnosis will require review and evaluation in the Australian context prior to national implementation as well as periodic review to incorporate new knowledge.
PMCID: PMC3849849  PMID: 24083778
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Diagnosis; Consensus
2.  A modified Delphi study of screening for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:13.
There is little reliable information on the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia and no coordinated national approach to facilitate case detection. The aim of this study was to identify health professionals’ perceptions about screening for FASD in Australia.
A modified Delphi process was used to assess perceptions of the need for, and the process of, screening for FASD in Australia. We recruited a panel of 130 Australian health professionals with experience or expertise in FASD screening or diagnosis. A systematic review of the literature was used to develop Likert statements on screening coverage, components and assessment methods which were administered using an online survey over two survey rounds.
Of the panel members surveyed, 95 (73%) responded to the questions on screening in the first survey round and, of these, 81 (85%) responded to the second round. Following two rounds there was consensus agreement on the need for targeted screening at birth (76%) and in childhood (84%). Participants did not reach consensus agreement on the need for universal screening at birth (55%) or in childhood (40%). Support for targeted screening was linked to perceived constraints on service provision and the need to examine the performance, costs and benefits of screening.
For targeted screening of high risk groups, we found highest agreement for siblings of known cases of FASD (96%) and children of mothers attending alcohol treatment services (93%). Participants agreed that screening for FASD primarily requires assessment of prenatal alcohol exposure at birth (86%) and in childhood (88%), and that a checklist is needed to identify the components of screening and criteria for referral at birth (84%) and in childhood (90%).
There is an agreed need for targeted but not universal screening for FASD in Australia, and sufficient consensus among health professionals to warrant development and evaluation of standardised methods for targeted screening and referral in the Australian context. Participants emphasised the need for locally-appropriate, evidence-based approaches to facilitate case detection, and the importance of ensuring that screening and referral programs are supported by adequate diagnostic and management capacity.
PMCID: PMC3583688  PMID: 23347677
3.  Health professionals’ perceptions about the adoption of existing guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:69.
Despite the availability of five guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), there is no national endorsement for their use in diagnosis in Australia. In this study we aimed to describe health professionals’ perceptions about the adoption of existing guidelines for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia and identify implications for the development of national guidelines.
We surveyed 130 Australian and 9 international health professionals with expertise or involvement in the screening or diagnosis of FASD. An online questionnaire was used to evaluate participants’ familiarity with and use of five existing diagnostic guidelines for FASD, and to assess their perceptions about the adoption of these guidelines in Australia.
Of the 139 participants surveyed, 84 Australian and 8 international health professionals (66.2%) responded to the questions on existing diagnostic guidelines. Participants most frequently reported using the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code (27.2%) and the Canadian guidelines (18.5%) for diagnosis. These two guidelines were also most frequently recommended for adoption in Australia: 32.5% of the 40 participants who were familiar with the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia, and 30.8% of the 26 participants who were familiar with the Canadian guidelines recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia. However, for the majority of guidelines examined, most participants were unsure whether they should be adopted in Australia. The adoption of existing guidelines in Australia was perceived to be limited by: their lack of evidence base, including the appropriateness of established reference standards for the Australian population; their complexity; the need for training and support to use the guidelines; and the lack of an interdisciplinary and interagency model to support service delivery in Australia.
Participants indicated some support for the adoption of the University of Washington or Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis; however, concerns were raised about the adoption of these diagnostic guidelines in their current form. Australian diagnostic guidelines will require evaluation to establish their validity in the Australian context, and a comprehensive implementation model is needed to facilitate improved diagnostic capacity in Australia.
PMCID: PMC3416706  PMID: 22697051
4.  Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: development of consensus referral criteria for specialist diagnostic assessment in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:178.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is known to be under-recognised in Australia. The use of standard methods to identify when to refer individuals who may have FASD for specialist assessment could help improve the identification of this disorder. The purpose of this study was to develop referral criteria for use in Australia.
An online survey about FASD screening and diagnosis in Australia, which included 23 statements describing criteria for referral for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and FASD based on published recommendations for referral in North America, was sent to 139 health professionals who had expertise or involvement in FASD screening or diagnosis. Survey findings and published criteria for referral were subsequently reviewed by a panel of 14 investigators at a consensus development workshop where criteria for referral were developed.
Among the 139 health professionals who were sent the survey, 103 (74%) responded, and 90 (65%) responded to the statements on criteria for referral. Over 80% of respondents agreed that referral for specialist evaluation should occur when there is evidence of significant prenatal alcohol exposure, defined as 7 or more standard drinks per week and at least 3 standard drinks on any one day, and more than 70% agreed with 13 of the 16 statements that described criteria for referral other than prenatal alcohol exposure. Workshop participants recommended five independent criteria for referral: confirmed significant prenatal alcohol exposure; microcephaly and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 2 or more significant central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 3 characteristic FAS facial anomalies; and 1 characteristic FAS facial anomaly, growth deficit and 1 or more CNS abnormalities.
Referral criteria recommended for use in Australia are similar to those recommended in North America. There is a need to develop resources to raise awareness of these criteria among health professionals and evaluate their feasibility, acceptability and capacity to improve the identification of FASD in Australia.
PMCID: PMC4123492  PMID: 25005425
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Referral; Consensus
5.  Invited commentary on Australian fetal alcohol spectrum disorder diagnostic guidelines 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:85.
The publication of Australian fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) diagnostic guidelines marks an important step forward in Australia’s efforts to prevent FASD. But do we need yet another set of FASD guidelines? At the 5th International FASD Conference, the ever growing number of FASD diagnostic guidelines was identified as a core area of concern by leaders in FASD worldwide. All agreed we need to strive to adopt a single set of guidelines. It is essential that FASD diagnosis advance to incorporate new knowledge and technology. But to date, the field of FASD has seen multiple sets of guidelines published that do not address the important question-How is the performance of these new guidelines superior to the performance of existing guidelines to warrant/justify their introduction into the medical literature?
The Australian guidelines include FAS, PFAS and Neurodevelopmental Disorder-Alcohol Exposed (ND-AE). This latter group includes individuals with severe CNS abnormalities without the physical features of FAS. This is the group the 4-Digit-Code calls Static-Encephalopathy-Alcohol-Exposed (SE-AE). The criteria for FAS, PFAS, and ND-AE (or what the 4-Digit-Code calls SE-AE) are identical between the Australian and 4-Digit-Code guidelines with the exception of one very small, but very consequential difference in facial criteria for PFAS. The 4-Digit-Code requires a Rank 3 FAS facial phenotype for PFAS (J Popul Ther Clin Pharmacol20(3):e416–e467, 2013); the Australian guidelines relax the criteria to include the Rank 2 FAS facial phenotype. This relaxation of the criteria renders the facial phenotype NOT specific to prenatal alcohol exposure as confirmed in published empirical studies. If the facial phenotype is not specific to (caused only by) prenatal alcohol exposure one can no longer validly call the outcome PFAS. When one makes a diagnosis of FAS (full or partial), one is stating explicitly that the individual has a syndrome caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. One is also stating explicitly that the biological mother drank alcohol during pregnancy and, as a result, harmed her child. These are bold conclusions to draw and are not without medical, ethical, and even legal consequences. So the question remains-Why go against the published empirical evidence and relax the PFAS facial criteria into the normal range?
PMCID: PMC3994222  PMID: 24685275
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; FASD 4-digit diagnostic code
6.  A Practical Clinical Approach to Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Clarification of the 1996 Institute of Medicine Criteria 
Pediatrics  2005;115(1):39-47.
Background. The adverse effects of alcohol on the developing human represent a spectrum of structural anomalies and behavioral and neurocognitive disabilities, most accurately termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). The first descriptions in the modern medical literature of a distinctly recognizable pattern of malformations associated with maternal alcohol abuse were reported in 1968 and 1973. Since that time, substantial progress has been made in developing specific criteria for defining and diagnosing this condition. Two sets of diagnostic criteria are now used most widely for evaluation of children with potential diagnoses in the FASD continuum, ie, the 1996 Institute of Medicine (IOM) criteria and the Washington criteria. Although both approaches have improved the clinical delineation of FASD, both suffer from significant drawbacks in their practical application in pediatric practice.
Objective. The purpose of this report is to present specific clarifications of the 1996 IOM criteria for the diagnosis of FASD, to facilitate their practical application in clinical pediatric practice.
Methods. A large cohort of children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol were identified, through active case-ascertainment methods, in 6 Native American communities in the United States and 1 community in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The children and their families underwent standardized multidisciplinary evaluations, including a dysmorphology examination, developmental and neuropsychologic testing, and a structured maternal interview, which gathered data about prenatal drinking practices and other demographic and family information. Data for these subjects were analyzed, and revisions and clarifications of the existing IOM FASD diagnostic categories were formulated on the basis of the results.
Results. The revised IOM method defined accurately and completely the spectrum of disabilities among the children in our study. On the basis of this experience, we propose specific diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome and partial fetal alcohol syndrome. We also define alcohol-related birth defects and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder from a practical standpoint.
Conclusions. The 1996 IOM criteria remain the most appropriate diagnostic approach for children prenatally exposed to alcohol. The proposed revisions presented here make these criteria applicable in clinical pediatric practice. Pediatrics 2005;115:39–47; fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, diagnostic criteria, mental retardation, developmental disabilities.
PMCID: PMC1380311  PMID: 15629980
7.  The Lililwan Project: study protocol for a population-based active case ascertainment study of the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in remote Australian Aboriginal communities 
BMJ Open  2012;2(3):e000968.
Anecdotal reports suggest that high-risk drinking in pregnancy is common in some remote Australian communities. Alcohol is teratogenic and may cause a range of lifelong conditions termed ‘fetal alcohol spectrum disorders’ (FASD). Australia has few diagnostic services for FASD, and prevalence of these neurodevelopmental disorders remains unknown. In 2009, Aboriginal leaders in the remote Fitzroy Valley in North Western Australia identified FASD as a community priority and initiated the Lililwani Project in partnership with leading research organisations. This project will establish the prevalence of FASD and other health and developmental problems in school-aged children residing in the Fitzroy Valley, providing data to inform FASD prevention and management.
Methods and analysis
This is a population-based active case ascertainment study of all children born in 2002 and 2003 and residing in the Fitzroy Valley. Participants will be identified from the Fitzroy Valley Population Project and Communicare databases. Parents/carers will be interviewed using a standardised diagnostic questionnaire modified for local language and cultural requirements to determine the demographics, antenatal exposures, birth outcomes, education and psychosocial status of each child. A comprehensive interdisciplinary health and neurodevelopmental assessment will be performed using tests and operational definitions adapted for the local context. Internationally recognised diagnostic criteria will be applied to determine FASD prevalence. Relationships between pregnancy exposures and early life trauma, neurodevelopmental, health and education outcomes will be evaluated using regression analysis. Results will be reported according to STROBE guidelines for observational studies.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethics approval has been granted by the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee, the Western Australian Aboriginal Health Information and Ethics Committee, the Western Australian Country Health Service Board Research Ethics Committee and the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Planning Forum Research Sub-committee. Results will be disseminated widely through peer-reviewed manuscripts, reports, conference presentations and the media.
Article summary
Article focus
To establish the need for prevalence data on FASD in remote Australia and for improved awareness and diagnosis of FASD.
To describe the protocol used in Australia's first population-based study of FASD prevalence using active case ascertainment in remote Aboriginal communities.
To demonstrate a process of community consultation and clinical research that respects the priorities, language and culture of Aboriginal communities.
Key messages
Accurate prevalence data on FASD and other health and developmental outcomes will inform prevention, service provision and policy in child health, education and justice.
This research will provide immediate and direct benefits to participants and the broader community, including a feasible and transferable model of FASD diagnosis and a model for culturally responsive research with Aboriginal communities.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The study was a response to a local community initiative and followed extensive community consultation.
The population-based active method of case ascertainment will provide the most accurate prevalence data for diagnoses on the entire FASD spectrum and other health and developmental outcomes.
Standardised and locally developed clinical assessments whose interpretation is less biased by culture and language have been chosen carefully with cross-cultural considerations in mind and are considered valid for the purpose of the study.
There are no normative data for Aboriginal children for the assessments used in the study.
Study findings may not generalise to all children born in the Fitzroy Valley following the introduction of community-led alcohol restrictions in 2007, after which time FASD prevalence may have decreased.
PMCID: PMC3346942  PMID: 22556161
The prevalence and characteristics of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) were determined in this fourth study of first grade children in a South African community.
Active case ascertainment methods were employed among 747 first grade pupils. The detailed characteristics of children within the continuum of FASD are contrasted with randomly-selected, normal controls on: 1. physical growth and dysmorphology; 2. cognitive/behavioral characteristics; and 3. maternal risk factors.
The rates of specific diagnoses within the FASD spectrum continue to be among the highest reported in any community in the world. The prevalence (per 1,000) is: FAS - 59.3 to 91.0; PFAS – 45.3 to 69.6; and ARND – 30.5 to 46.8. The overall rate of FASD is therefore 136.1 to 208.8 per 1,000 (or 13.6 to 20.9%). Clinical profiles of the physical and cognitive/behavioral traits of children with a specific FASD diagnosis and controls are provided for understanding the full spectrum of FASD in a community. The spectral effect is evident in the characteristics of the diagnostic groups and summarized by the total (mean) dysmorphology scores of the children: FAS = 18.9; PFAS = 14.3; ARND = 12.2; normal controls, alcohol exposed = 8.2; and unexposed = 7.1. Documented drinking during pregnancy is significantly correlated with verbal (r = -.253) and non-verbal ability (r = -.265), negative behaviors (r = .203) and total dysmorphology score (r = .431). Other measures of drinking during pregnancy are significantly associated with FASD, including binge drinking as low as three drinks per episode on two days of the week.
High rates of specific diagnoses within FASD were well documented in this new cohort of children. FASD persists in this community. The data reflect an increased ability to provide accurate and discriminating diagnoses throughout the continuum of FASD.
PMCID: PMC3610844  PMID: 23241076
fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; epidemiology; prevalence; diagnosis; South Africa; alcohol abuse; cognition; maternal drinking
9.  Expanding Disease Definitions in Guidelines and Expert Panel Ties to Industry: A Cross-sectional Study of Common Conditions in the United States 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001500.
Financial ties between health professionals and industry may unduly influence professional judgments and some researchers have suggested that widening disease definitions may be one driver of over-diagnosis, bringing potentially unnecessary labeling and harm. We aimed to identify guidelines in which disease definitions were changed, to assess whether any proposed changes would increase the numbers of individuals considered to have the disease, whether potential harms of expanding disease definitions were investigated, and the extent of members' industry ties.
Methods and Findings
We undertook a cross-sectional study of the most recent publication between 2000 and 2013 from national and international guideline panels making decisions about definitions or diagnostic criteria for common conditions in the United States. We assessed whether proposed changes widened or narrowed disease definitions, rationales offered, mention of potential harms of those changes, and the nature and extent of disclosed ties between members and pharmaceutical or device companies.
Of 16 publications on 14 common conditions, ten proposed changes widening and one narrowing definitions. For five, impact was unclear. Widening fell into three categories: creating “pre-disease”; lowering diagnostic thresholds; and proposing earlier or different diagnostic methods. Rationales included standardising diagnostic criteria and new evidence about risks for people previously considered to not have the disease. No publication included rigorous assessment of potential harms of proposed changes.
Among 14 panels with disclosures, the average proportion of members with industry ties was 75%. Twelve were chaired by people with ties. For members with ties, the median number of companies to which they had ties was seven. Companies with ties to the highest proportions of members were active in the relevant therapeutic area. Limitations arise from reliance on only disclosed ties, and exclusion of conditions too broad to enable analysis of single panel publications.
For the common conditions studied, a majority of panels proposed changes to disease definitions that increased the number of individuals considered to have the disease, none reported rigorous assessment of potential harms of that widening, and most had a majority of members disclosing financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Health professionals generally base their diagnosis of physical and mental disorders among their patients on disease definitions and diagnostic thresholds that are drawn up by expert panels and published as statements or as part of clinical practice guidelines. These disease definitions and diagnostic thresholds are reviewed and updated in response to changes in disease detection methods, treatments, medical knowledge, and, in the case of mental illness, changes in cultural norms. Sometimes, the review process widens disease definitions and lowers diagnostic thresholds. Such changes can be beneficial. For example, they might ensure that life-threatening conditions are diagnosed early when they are still treatable. But the widening of disease definitions can also lead to over-diagnosis—the diagnosis of a condition in a healthy individual that will never cause any symptoms and won't lead to an early death. Over-diagnosis can unnecessarily label people as ill, harm healthy individuals by exposing them to treatments they do not need, and waste resources that could be used to treat or prevent “genuine” illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
In recent years, evidence for widespread financial and non-financial ties between pharmaceutical companies and the health professionals involved in writing clinical practice guidelines has increased, and concern that these links may influence professional judgments has grown. As a result, a 2011 report from the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that, whenever possible, guideline developers should not have conflicts of interest, that a minority of the panel members involved in guideline development should have conflicts of interest, and that the chairs of these panels should be free of conflicts. Much less is known, however, about the ties between industry and the health professionals involved in reviewing disease definitions and whether these ties might in some way contribute to over-diagnosis. In this cross-sectional study (an investigation that takes a snapshot of a situation at a single time point), the researchers identify panels that have recently made decisions about definitions or diagnostic thresholds for conditions that are common in the US and describe the industry ties among the panel members and the changes in disease definitions proposed by the panels.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 16 publications in which expert panels proposed changes to the disease definitions and diagnostic criteria for 14 conditions that are common in the US such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and Alzheimer disease. The proposed changes widened the disease definition for ten diseases, narrowed it for one disease, and had an unclear impact for five diseases. Reasons included in the publications for changing disease definitions included new evidence of risk for people previously considered normal (pre-hypertension) and the emergence of new biomarkers, tests, or treatments (Alzheimer disease). Only six of the panels mentioned possible harms of the proposed changes and none appeared to rigorously assess the downsides of expanding definitions. Of the 15 panels involved in the publications (one panel produced two publications), 12 included members who disclosed financial ties to multiple companies. Notably, the commonest industrial ties among these panels were to companies marketing drugs for the disease being considered by that panel. On average, 75% of panel members disclosed industry ties (range 0% to 100%) to a median of seven companies each. Moreover, similar proportions of panel members disclosed industry ties in publications released before and after the 2011 IOM report.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, for the conditions studied, most panels considering disease definitions and diagnostic criteria proposed changes that widened disease definitions and that financial ties with pharmaceutical companies with direct interests in the therapeutic area covered by the panel were common among panel members. Because this study does not include a comparison group, these findings do not establish a causal link between industry ties and proposals to change disease definitions. Moreover, because the study concentrates on a subset of common diseases in the US setting, the generalizability of these findings is limited. Despite these and other study limitations, these findings provide new information about the ties between industry and influential medical professionals and raise questions about the current processes of disease definition. Future research, the researchers suggest, should investigate how disease definitions change over time, how much money panel members receive from industry, and how panel proposals affect the potential market of sponsors. Finally it should aim to design new processes for reviewing disease definitions that are free from potential conflicts of interest.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Knüppel et al. assesses the representation of ethical issues in general clinical practice guidelines on dementia care
Wikipedia has a page on medical diagnosis (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
An article on over-diagnosis by two of the study authors is available; an international conference on preventing over-diagnosis will take place this September
The 2011 US Institute of Medicine report Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust is available
A PLOS Medicine Essay by Lisa Cosgrove and Sheldon Krimsky discusses the financial ties with industry of panel members involved in the preparation of the latest revision of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which provides standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders
PMCID: PMC3742441  PMID: 23966841
10.  Development of a reliable questionnaire to assist in the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:33.
A battery of clinical assessments was used in the Lililwan* Project, Australia’s first population-based Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) prevalence study, conducted in the remote Fitzroy Valley, Western Australia. One objective was to develop and assess test-retest reliability of an acceptable questionnaire for collecting health information in remote Aboriginal communities feasible for use in the Lililwan Project.
A questionnaire was developed by paediatricians to assist in diagnosis of FASD. Content was based on a literature review of FASD diagnostic criteria, existing questionnaires and risk factors for FASD and birth defects. Aboriginal community members, including qualified Aboriginal language interpreters, adapted the questionnaire to ensure language and cultural components were appropriate for use in the Fitzroy Valley. Locally developed pictorial aids were used for gathering accurate information on alcohol use. Aboriginal ‘community navigators’ assisted researchers to translate the questions into Kimberley Kriol or local Aboriginal languages depending on participant preference.
A subset of 14 questions was assessed for test-retest reliability in 30 parents/carers of children in the Lililwan Project cohort, who were interviewed by one rater using the entire questionnaire, then by a second rater who repeated 14 critical questions at least 6 hours later.
The full questionnaire contained 112 items and took 50 minutes to administer. For a subset of 14 items from the full questionnaire percent exact agreement between raters ranged from 59-100%, and was below 70% for only 1 question. Test-retest reliability was excellent (Kappa 0.81-1.00) for 5 items, substantial (Kappa 0.61-0.80) for 5 items, and moderate, fair or slight (Kappa ≤0.60) for the remaining 4 items tested. Test-retest reliability for questions relating to alcohol use in pregnancy was excellent. When questions had moderate, fair or slight agreement, information was obtained from alternate sources e.g. medical records. Qualitative feedback from parents/carers confirmed acceptability of the questionnaire.
This questionnaire had acceptable test-retest reliability and could be used to collect demographic, socio-cultural and biomedical information relevant to the diagnosis of FASD in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia and elsewhere. Community input is crucial when developing and administering questionnaires for use in cross-cultural contexts.
*Lililwan is a Kimberley Kriol word meaning ‘all the little ones’. Kimberley Kriol is the main language spoken by Aboriginal people in the Fitzroy Valley.
PMCID: PMC3680181  PMID: 23496974
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS); Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD); Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; Indigenous; Questionnaire development; Diagnosis; Reliability testing; Reproducibility of results; Test-retest; Percent exact agreement
11.  Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Canadian guidelines for diagnosis 
THE DIAGNOSIS OF FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDER (FASD) is complex and guidelines are warranted. A subcommittee of the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Advisory Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder reviewed, analysed and integrated current approaches to diagnosis to reach agreement on a standard in Canada. The purpose of this paper is to review and clarify the use of current diagnostic systems and make recommendations on their application for diagnosis of FASD-related disabilities in people of all ages. The guidelines are based on widespread consultation of expert practitioners and partners in the field. The guidelines have been organized into 7 categories: screening and referral; the physical examination and differential diagnosis; the neurobehavioural assessment; and treatment and follow-up; maternal alcohol history in pregnancy; diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), partial FAS and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder; and harmonization of Institute of Medicine and 4-Digit Diagnostic Code approaches. The diagnosis requires a comprehensive history and physical and neurobehavioural assessments; a multidisciplinary approach is necessary. These are the first Canadian guidelines for the diagnosis of FAS and its related disabilities, developed by broad-based consultation among experts in diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC557121  PMID: 15738468
12.  Cost of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis in Canada 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60434.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is underdiagnosed in Canada. The diagnosis of FASD is not simple and currently, the recommendation is that a comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment of the individual be done. The purpose of this study was to estimate the annual cost of FASD diagnosis on Canadian society.
The diagnostic process breakdown was based on recommendations from the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Canadian Guidelines for Diagnosis. The per person cost of diagnosis was calculated based on the number of hours (estimated based on expert opinion) required by each specialist involved in the diagnostic process. The average rate per hour for each respective specialist was estimated based on hourly costs across Canada. Based on the existing clinical capacity of all FASD multidisciplinary clinics in Canada, obtained from the 2005 and 2011 surveys conducted by the Canada Northwest FASD Research Network, the number of FASD cases diagnosed per year in Canada was estimated. The per person cost of FASD diagnosis was then applied to the number of cases diagnosed per year in Canada in order to calculated the overall annual cost.
Using the most conservative approach, it was estimated that an FASD evaluation requires 32 to 47 hours for one individual to be screened, referred, admitted, and diagnosed with an FASD diagnosis, which results in a total cost of $3,110 to $4,570 per person. The total cost of FASD diagnostic services in Canada ranges from $3.6 to $5.2 million (lower estimate), up to $5.0 to $7.3 million (upper estimate) per year.
As a result of using the most conservative approach, the cost of FASD diagnostic services presented in the current study is most likely underestimated. The reasons for this likelihood and the limitations of the study are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3617033  PMID: 23593216
13.  International survey of diagnostic services for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 
BMC Pediatrics  2008;8:12.
Early diagnosis and intervention for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) reduces the risk of developing a range of secondary social, emotional and behavioural problems and provides an opportunity for prevention of further alcohol exposed pregnancies. The objective of this study was to describe specialist clinical service provision for the diagnosis and assessment of children exposed to alcohol in pregnancy.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) diagnostic clinics were identified through literature and internet searches. Clinics were sent a questionnaire asking for information on the clinic population, clinic staff, assessment process and other services provided.
Questionnaires were completed for 34 clinics: 29 were in North America, 2 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1 in South America. No clinics were identified in Asia or Australasia. There was a variety of funding sources, services offered, clinic populations, staff and methods of assessment. Thirty-three clinics had a multi-disciplinary team. In 32 clinics, at least one member of the team had specialist training in assessment of FASD. Neurobehavioural assessment was completed in 32 clinics. Eleven clinics used more than one set of diagnostic criteria or an adaptation of published criteria.
Diagnostic services are concentrated in North America. Most responding clinics are using a multidisciplinary approach with neurobehavioural assessment as recommended in published guidelines. Agreement on diagnostic criteria would enable comparison of clinical and research data, and enhance FASD research particularly for intervention trials.
PMCID: PMC2377245  PMID: 18412975
14.  Involving consumers and the community in the development of a diagnostic instrument for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
Australia’s commitment to consumer and community participation in health and medical research has grown over the past decade. Participatory research models of engagement are the most empowering for consumers.
As part of a project to develop a diagnostic instrument for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia (FASD Project), the Australian FASD Collaboration (Collaboration), including a consumer advocate and two consumer representatives, was established. On completion of the FASD Project an on-line survey of Collaboration members was conducted to assess their views on consumer involvement. Women in the community were also invited to participate in Community Conversations to discuss real life situations regarding communications with health professionals about alcohol and pregnancy. Community Conversation feedback was analysed qualitatively and attendees were surveyed about their views of the Community Conversation process.
The on-line survey was completed by 12 members of the Collaboration (71%). Consumer and community participation was considered important and essential, worked well, and was integral to the success of the project. The 32 women attending the Community Conversations generated 500 statements that made reference to prevention, how information and messages are delivered, and appropriate support for women. Nearly all the attendees at the Community Conversations (93%) believed that they had an opportunity to put forward their ideas and 96% viewed the Community Conversations as a positive experience.
The successful involvement of consumers and the community in the FASD Project can be attributed to active consumer and community participation, which included continued involvement throughout the project, funding of participation activities, and an understanding of the various contributions by the Collaboration members.
PMCID: PMC3733745  PMID: 23898969
Consumer participation; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Research
15.  Comparison of spatial working memory in children with prenatal alcohol exposure and those diagnosed with ADHD; A functional magnetic resonance imaging study 
Alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) falls under the umbrella of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), but individuals do not demonstrate the facial characteristics associated with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), making diagnosis difficult. While attentional problems in ARND are similar to those found in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the underlying impairment in attention pathways may be different.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of a working memory (1-back) task of 63 children, 10 to 14 years old, diagnosed with ARND and ADHD, as well as typically developing (TD) controls, was conducted at 3 T. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data were also acquired.
Activations were observed in posterior parietal and occipital regions in the TD group and in dorsolateral prefrontal and posterior parietal regions in the ARND group, whereas the ADHD group activated only dorsolateral prefrontal regions, during the working memory component of the task (1-back minus 0-back contrast). The increases in frontal and parietal activity were significantly greater in the ARND group compared to the other groups. This increased activity was associated with reduced accuracy and increased response time variability, suggesting that ARND subjects exert greater effort to manage short-term memory load. Significantly greater intra-subject variability, demonstrated by fMRI region-of-interest analysis, in the ADHD and ARND groups compared to the TD group suggests that moment-to-moment lapses in attention contributed to their poorer task performance. Differences in functional activity in ARND subjects with and without a diagnosis of ADHD resulted primarily from reduced activation by the ARND/ADHD + group during the 0-back task. In contrast, children with ADHD alone clearly showed reduced activations during the 1-back task. DTI analysis revealed that the TD group had significantly higher total tract volume and number of fibers than the ARND group. These measures were negatively correlated with errors on the 1-back task, suggesting a link between white matter integrity and task performance.
fMRI activations suggest that the similar behavior of children with ARND and ADHD on a spatial working memory task is the result of different cognitive events. The nature of ADHD in children with ARND appears to differ from that of children with ADHD alone.
PMCID: PMC3436669  PMID: 22958510
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD); Alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND); Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Spatial working memory; White matter; Gray matter; Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); Region of interest (ROI)
16.  Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Maternal Characteristics in a Sample of Schoolchildren from a Rural Province of Croatia 
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a congenital syndrome caused by maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and is entirely preventable by abstinence from alcohol drinking during this time. Little is known about the prevalence of FAS and maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy in Western countries. We present the results of FAS/partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS) prevalence study and maternal characteristics in a sample of schoolchildren from a rural province of Croatia. This study involved seven elementary schools with 1,110 enrolled children attending 1st to 4th grade and their mothers. We used an active case ascertainment method with passive parental consent and Clarified IOM criteria. The investigation protocol involved maternal data collection and clinical examination of children. Out of 1,110 mothers, 917 (82.6%) answered the questionnaire. Alcohol exposure during pregnancy was admitted by 11.5%, regular drinking by 4.0% and binge drinking by 1.4% of questioned mothers. Clinical examination involved 824 (74.2%) schoolchildren and disclosed 14 (1.7%) with clinical signs of FAS and 41 (5.0%) of PFAS. The observed FAS prevalence, based on 74.2% participation rate, was 16.9, PFAS 49.7 and combined prevalence was 66.7/1,000 examined schoolchildren. This is the first FAS prevalence study based on active ascertainment among schoolchildren and pregnancy alcohol drinking analysis performed in a rural community of Croatia and Europe. High prevalence of FAS/PFAS and pregnancy alcohol consumption observed in this study revealed that FAS is serious health problem in rural regions as well as a need to develop future studies and preventive measures for pregnancy alcohol drinking and FASD.
PMCID: PMC3709333  PMID: 23591786
FAS; prevalence; schoolchildren; rural; Croatia
17.  Magnetic resonance imaging outcomes from a comprehensive magnetic resonance study of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders 
Magnetic resonance (MR) technology offers non-invasive methods for in vivo assessment of neuroabnormalities.
A comprehensive neuropsychological/psychiatric battery, coupled with MR imaging, (MRI), MR spectroscopy (MRS), and functional MRI (fMRI) assessments, were administered to children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) to determine if global and/or focal abnormalities could be identified, and distinguish diagnostic subclassifications across the spectrum. The four study groups included: 1. FAS/Partial FAS; 2. Static Encephalopathy/Alcohol Exposed (SE/AE); 3. Neurobehavioral Disorder/Alcohol Exposed (ND/AE) as diagnosed with the FASD 4-Digit Code; and 4. healthy peers with no prenatal alcohol exposure. Presented here are the MRI assessments used to compare the sizes of brain regions between the four groups. The neuropsychological/behavioral, MRS, and fMRI outcomes are reported separately.
Progressing across the four study groups from Controls to ND/AE to SE/AE to FAS/PFAS, the mean absolute size of the total brain, frontal lobe, caudate, putamen, hippocampus, cerebellar vermis, and corpus callosum length decreased incrementally and significantly. The FAS/PFAS group (the only group with the 4-Digit FAS facial phenotype) had disproportionately smaller frontal lobes relative to all other groups. The FAS/PFAS and SE/AE groups (the two groups with the most severe CNS dysfunction) had disproportionately smaller caudate regions relative to the ND/AE and Control groups. The prevalence of subjects in the FAS/PFAS, SE/AE, and ND/AE groups that had one or more brain regions, two or more standard deviations below the mean size observed in the Control group was78%, 58%, and 43%, respectively . Significant correlations were observed between size of brain regions and level of prenatal alcohol exposure, magnitude of FAS facial phenotype, and level of CNS dysfunction.
MRI provided further validation that ND/AE, SE/AE, and FAS/PFAS, as defined by the FASD 4-Digit Code, are three clinically distinct and increasingly more affected diagnostic subclassifications under the umbrella of FASD. Neurostructural abnormalities are present across the spectrum. MRI could importantly augment diagnosis of conditions under the umbrella of FASD, once population-based norms for structural development of the human brain are established.
PMCID: PMC4170878  PMID: 19572986
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD); Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); FASD 4-Digit Diagnostic Code
18.  Overview of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders for Mental Health Professionals 
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and related disorders such as Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) are the most common form of developmental disability and birth defects in the western world. Early recognition and accurate diagnosis by mental health professionals remains a key issue. This article reviews history, mechanisms of alcohol exposure, epidemiology, diagnosis and management of FASD.
PMCID: PMC2582751  PMID: 19030526
19.  Tobacco Company Efforts to Influence the Food and Drug Administration-Commissioned Institute of Medicine Report Clearing the Smoke: An Analysis of Documents Released through Litigation 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001450.
Stanton Glantz and colleagues investigate efforts by tobacco companies to influence Clearing the Smoke, a 2001 Institute of Medicine report on harm reduction tobacco products.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Spurred by the creation of potential modified risk tobacco products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction,” leading to the 2001 IOM report Clearing the Smoke. The objective of this study was to determine how the tobacco industry organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the report.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents in the University of California, San Francisco Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, and IOM public access files. (A limitation of this method includes the fact that the tobacco companies have withheld some possibly relevant documents.) Tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have high-stakes regulatory implications. They developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings. When the IOM study staff invited the companies to provide information on exposure and disease markers, clinical trial design for safety and efficacy, and implications for initiation and cessation, tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and in-house regulatory staff shaped presentations from company scientists. Although the available evidence does not permit drawing cause-and-effect conclusions, and the IOM may have come to the same conclusions without the influence of the tobacco industry, the companies were pleased with the final report, particularly the recommendations for a tiered claims system (with separate tiers for exposure and risk, which they believed would ease the process of qualifying for a claim) and license to sell products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) without prior regulatory approval. Some principles from the IOM report, including elements of the substantial equivalence recommendation, appear in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Tobacco companies strategically interacted with the IOM to win several favored scientific and regulatory recommendations.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Up to half of tobacco users will die of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, or another tobacco-related disease. Cigarettes and other tobacco products cause disease because they expose their users to nicotine and numerous other toxic chemicals. Tobacco companies have been working to develop a “safe” cigarette for more than half a century. Initially, their attention focused on cigarettes that produced lower tar and nicotine yields in machine-smoking tests. These products were perceived as “safer” products by the public and scientists for many years, but it is now known that the use of low-yield cigarettes can actually expose smokers to higher levels of toxins than standard cigarettes. More recently, the tobacco companies have developed other products (for example, products that heat aerosols of nicotine, rather than burning the tobacco) that claim to reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease, but they can only market these modified risk tobacco products in the US after obtaining Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. In 1999, the FDA commissioned the US Institute of Medicine (IOM, an influential source of independent expert advice on medical issues) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction.” In 2001, the IOM published its report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm and Reduction, which, although controversial, set the tone for the development and regulation of tobacco products in the US, particularly those claiming to be less dangerous, in subsequent years.
Why Was This Study Done?
Tobacco companies have a long history of working to shape scientific discussions and agendas. For example, they have produced research results designed to “create controversy” about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. In this study, the researchers investigate how tobacco companies organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the Clearing the Smoke report on modified risk tobacco products by analyzing tobacco industry and IOM documents.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (a collection of internal tobacco industry documents released as a result of US litigation cases) for documents outlining how tobacco companies tried to influence the IOM Committee to Assess the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction and created a timeline of events from the 1,000 or so documents they retrieved. They confirmed and supplemented this timeline using information in 80 files that detailed written interactions between the tobacco companies and the IOM committee, which they obtained through a public records access request. Analysis of these documents indicates that the tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have important regulatory implications, that they developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings, and that tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and regulatory staff shaped presentations to the IOM committee by company scientists on various aspects of tobacco harm reduction products. The analysis also shows that tobacco companies were pleased with the final report, particularly its recommendation that tobacco products can be marketed with exposure or risk reduction claims provided the products substantially reduce exposure and provided the behavioral and health consequences of these products are determined in post-marketing surveillance and epidemiological studies (“tiered testing”) and its recommendation that, provided no claim of reduced exposure or risk is made, new products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) can be marketed without prior regulatory approval.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that tobacco companies used their legal and regulatory staff to access the IOM committee that advised the FDA on modified risk tobacco products and that they used this access to deliver specific, carefully formulated messages designed to serve their business interests. Although these findings provide no evidence that the efforts of tobacco companies influenced the IOM committee in any way, they show that the companies were satisfied with the final IOM report and its recommendations, some of which have policy implications that continue to reverberate today. The researchers therefore call for the FDA and other regulatory bodies to remember that they are dealing with companies with a long history of intentionally misleading the public when assessing the information presented by tobacco companies as part of the regulatory process and to actively protect their public-health policies from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Thomas Novotny
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages); for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Heide Weishaar and colleagues describes tobacco company efforts to undermine the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international instrument for tobacco control
Wikipedia has a page on tobacco harm reduction (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The IOM report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction is available to read online
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education is the focal point for University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) scientists in disciplines ranging from the molecular biology of nicotine addiction through political science who combine their efforts to eradicate the use of tobacco and tobacco-induced cancer and other diseases worldwide
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
PMCID: PMC3665841  PMID: 23723740
Clinical and research advancements in the field of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) require accurate and valid identification of FASD clinical subgroups.
A comprehensive neuropsychological battery, coupled with magnetic resonance imaging, (MRI), MR spectroscopy (MRS), and functional MRI (fMRI) were administered to children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) to determine if global and/or focal abnormalities could be identified across the spectrum, and distinguish diagnostic subclassifications within the spectrum. The neuropsychological outcomes of the comprehensive neuroimaging study are presented here.
The study groups included: 1) FAS/Partial FAS; 2) Static Encephalopathy/Alcohol Exposed (SE/AE); 3) Neurobehavioral Disorder/Alcohol Exposed (ND/AE) as diagnosed by an interdisciplinary team using the FASD 4-Digit Code; and 4) healthy peers with no prenatal alcohol. A standardized neuropsychological battery was administered to each child and their primary caregiver by a psychologist.
Use of the 4-Digit Code produced three clinically and statistically distinct FASD clinical subgroups. The three subgroups (ND/AE, SE/AE and FAS/PFAS) reflected a linear continuum of increasing neuropsychological impairment and physical abnormality, representing the full continuum of FASD. Behavioral and psychiatric disorders were comparably prevalent across the three FASD groups, and significantly more prevalent than among the Controls. All three FASD subgroups had comparably high levels of prenatal alcohol exposure.
Although ND/AE, SE/AE, and FAS/PFAS are distinct FASD subgroups, these groups are not distinguishable solely by their neuropsychological profiles. While all children within a group shared the same magnitude of neuropsychological impairment, the patterns of impairment showed considerable individual variability. MRI, MRS and fMRI further distinguished these FASD subgroups.
PMCID: PMC4188550  PMID: 19329824
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD); magnetic resonance (MR); FASD 4-Digit Diagnostic Code; neuropsychological
21.  Midwives’ knowledge, attitudes and practice about alcohol exposure and the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder 
Midwives are an influential profession and a key group in informing women about alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its consequences. There are no current quantitative Australian data on midwives’ knowledge, attitudes and practice in relation to alcohol consumption during pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. We aimed to reduce this knowledge gap by understanding midwives’ perceptions of their practice in addressing alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
This cross-sectional study was conducted at 19 maternity sites across the seven health regions of country Western Australia. A questionnaire was designed following review of the literature and other relevant surveys. Midwifery managers of the maternity sites distributed questionnaires to all midwives working in their line of management. A total of 334 midwives were invited to participate in the research and (n = 245, 73.4%) of these were eligible.
The response fraction was (n = 166, 67.8%). Nearly all (n = 151, 93.2%) midwives asked pregnant women about their alcohol consumption during pregnancy and (n = 164, 99.4%) offered advice about alcohol consumption in accordance with the Australian Alcohol Guideline, which states “For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option”. Nearly two thirds (n = 104, 64.2%) of the midwives informed pregnant women about the effects of alcohol consumption in pregnancy, they did not always use the recommended AUDIT screening tool (n = 66, 47.5%) to assess alcohol consumption during pregnancy, nor conduct brief intervention when indicated (n = 107, 70.4%). Most midwives endorsed professional development about screening tools (n = 145, 93.5%), brief intervention (n = 144, 92.9%), and alcohol consumption during pregnancy and FASD (n = 144, 92.9%).
Nearly all midwives in this study asked and advised about alcohol consumption in pregnancy and around two thirds provided information about the effects of alcohol in pregnancy. Our findings support the need for further professional development for midwives on screening and brief intervention. Policy should support midwives’ practice to screen for alcohol consumption in pregnancy and offer brief intervention when indicated.
PMCID: PMC4228156  PMID: 25366388
Midwives; Knowledge; Attitude; Practice; Alcohol; Pregnancy; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
22.  The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency-Short Form is reliable in children living in remote Australian Aboriginal communities 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:135.
The Lililwan Project is the first population-based study to determine Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) prevalence in Australia and was conducted in the remote Fitzroy Valley in North Western Australia. The diagnostic process for FASD requires accurate assessment of gross and fine motor functioning using standardised cut-offs for impairment. The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, Second Edition (BOT-2) is a norm-referenced assessment of motor function used worldwide and in FASD clinics in North America. It is available in a Complete Form with 53 items or a Short Form with 14 items. Its reliability in measuring motor performance in children exposed to alcohol in utero or living in remote Australian Aboriginal communities is unknown.
A prospective inter-rater and test-retest reliability study was conducted using the BOT-2 Short Form. A convenience sample of children (n = 30) aged 7 to 9 years participating in the Lililwan Project cohort (n = 108) study, completed the reliability study. Over 50% of mothers of Lililwan Project children drank alcohol during pregnancy. Two raters simultaneously scoring each child determined inter-rater reliability. Test-retest reliability was determined by assessing each child on a second occasion using predominantly the same rater. Reliability was analysed by calculating Intra-Class correlation Coefficients, ICC(2,1), Percentage Exact Agreement (PEA) and Percentage Close Agreement (PCA) and measures of Minimal Detectable Change (MDC) were calculated.
Thirty Aboriginal children (18 male, 12 female: mean age 8.8 years) were assessed at eight remote Fitzroy Valley communities. The inter-rater reliability for the BOT-2 Short Form score sheet outcomes ranged from 0.88 (95%CI, 0.77 – 0.94) to 0.92 (95%CI, 0.84 – 0.96) indicating excellent reliability. The test-retest reliability (median interval between tests being 45.5 days) for the BOT-2 Short Form score sheet outcomes ranged from 0.62 (95%CI, 0.34 – 0.80) to 0.73 (95%CI, 0.50 – 0.86) indicating fair to good reliability. The raw score MDC was 6.12.
The BOT-2 Short Form has acceptable reliability for use in remote Australian Aboriginal communities and will be useful in determining motor deficits in children exposed to alcohol prenatally. This is the first known study evaluating the reliability of the BOT-2 Short Form, either in the context of assessment for FASD or in Aboriginal children.
PMCID: PMC3844452  PMID: 24010634
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS); Alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder; Australian Aborigine; Maternal use of alcohol; School-aged children; Reproducibility of results; Culture; Motor skills; Child development
23.  Adequacy of Maternal Iron Status Protects against Behavioral, Neuroanatomical, and Growth Deficits in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47499.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are the leading non-genetic cause of neurodevelopmental disability in children. Although alcohol is clearly teratogenic, environmental factors such as gravidity and socioeconomic status significantly modify individual FASD risk despite equivalent alcohol intake. An explanation for this variability could inform FASD prevention. Here we show that the most common nutritional deficiency of pregnancy, iron deficiency without anemia (ID), is a potent and synergistic modifier of FASD risk. Using an established rat model of third trimester-equivalent binge drinking, we show that ID significantly interacts with alcohol to impair postnatal somatic growth, associative learning, and white matter formation, as compared with either insult separately. For the associative learning and myelination deficits, the ID-alcohol interaction was synergistic and the deficits persisted even after the offsprings’ iron status had normalized. Importantly, the observed deficits in the ID-alcohol animals comprise key diagnostic criteria of FASD. Other neurobehaviors were normal, showing the ID-alcohol interaction was selective and did not reflect a generalized malnutrition. Importantly ID worsened FASD outcome even though the mothers lacked overt anemia; thus diagnostics that emphasize hematological markers will not identify pregnancies at-risk. This is the first direct demonstration that, as suggested by clinical studies, maternal iron status has a unique influence upon FASD outcome. While alcohol is unquestionably teratogenic, this ID-alcohol interaction likely represents a significant portion of FASD diagnoses because ID is more common in alcohol-abusing pregnancies than generally appreciated. Iron status may also underlie the associations between FASD and parity or socioeconomic status. We propose that increased attention to normalizing maternal iron status will substantially improve FASD outcome, even if maternal alcohol abuse continues. These findings offer novel insights into how alcohol damages the developing brain.
PMCID: PMC3477151  PMID: 23094056
24.  Health-related quality of life of Canadian children and youth prenatally exposed to alcohol 
In Canada, the incidence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has been estimated to be 1 in 100 live births. Caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol, FASD is the leading cause of neuro-developmental disabilities among Canadian children, and youth. Objective: To measure the health-related quality of life (HRQL) of Canadian children and youth diagnosed with FASD.
A prospective cross-sectional study design was used. One-hundred and twenty-six (126) children and youth diagnosed with FASD, aged 8 to 21 years, living in urban and rural communities throughout Canada participated in the study. Participants completed the Health Utilities Index Mark 3 (HUI3). HUI3 measures eight health attributes: vision, hearing, speech, ambulation, dexterity, emotion, cognition, and pain. Utilities were used to measure a single cardinal value between 0 and 1.0 (0 = all-worst health state; 1 = perfect health) to reflect the global HRQL for that child. Mean HRQL scores and range of scores of children and youth with FASD were calculated. A one-sample t-test was used to compare mean HRQL scores of children and youth with FASD to those from the Canadian population.
Mean HRQL score of children and youth with FASD was 0.47 (95% CI: 0.42 to 0.52) as compared to a mean score of 0.93 (95% CI: 0.92 to 0.94) in those from the general Canadian population (p < 0.001). Children demonstrated moderate to severe dysfunction on the single-attributes of cognition and emotion.
Children and youth with FASD have significantly lower HRQL than children and youth from the general Canadian population. This finding has significant implications for practice, policy development, and research.
PMCID: PMC1617087  PMID: 17040571
25.  A report on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Study Group meeting of 2012, Theme title, “Biomarkers for FASD” 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2013;47(8):10.1016/j.alcohol.2013.09.042.
The 2012 meeting of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Study Group (FASDSG) focused on the development and ethics of biomarkers for fetal alcohol exposure. This one-day international conference brought students and trainees together with clinicians and researchers to discuss the latest research on FASD. One keynote speaker discussed the value of profiling epigenetic modifications in readily available fetal tissues to diagnose fetal exposure to environmental agents, while the second speaker discussed the ethics of biomarker development within the context of core principles of justice, autonomy, beneficence and non-maleficence. Three sessions of short data talks informed the audience of research advances with particular emphasis on the diagnosis of FASD. Other activities included updates on FASD-related activities by representatives of government agencies, a report on the implementation FASD-related diagnostic criteria in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association and a networking lunch, and the presentation of the “Merit Award” to Dr. Nathan Muraski for his work on behavioural outcomes of fetal alcohol exposure. The capstone of the meeting was the presentation of the “Henri Rosett” award to Dr. Denis Viljoen, in recognition of his role in raising awareness about the incidence of FASD in South Africa and in promoting FASD prevention and treatment programs as chairperson and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR).
PMCID: PMC3868338  PMID: 24183101
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; epigenetics; biomarker; ethics; Rosett Award

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