Physical exam for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

The physical exam for a baby or child who is suspected of having FASD will include:

  • Measurements of height, weight, and size of the head. These will be plotted on a graph to compare them with normal ranges for the child's age group. Children with FASD are smaller and shorter than other children their age.
  • Evaluation of facial features. Not all babies and children with FASD have the characteristic features: a small face, narrow eye openings (slits), a short upturned nose, a flattened groove between the nose and the upper lip (philtrum), and a thin upper lip. These features may not be present or may be subtle and easy to miss in a baby. The facial features, if present, become more noticeable by the time the child is about 2 to 3 years of age.
  • Examination of the child for signs of birth defects related to alcohol exposure, such as heart defects and hearing loss.
  • Examination of the nervous system. The doctor will look for signs of problems with the central nervous system, such as tremors, irritability, and attention problems.

Last Updated: March 17, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & William Gilbert, MD - Perinatology

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