Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders among children living in Russian 'Baby Homes'

  • Researchers have examined a sample of children living in Russian "Baby Homes" for features that are indicative of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
  • More than half of the Baby-Home residents were found to have intermediate (45%) or high (13%) phenotypic expression scores, consistent with a diagnosis of FASD.
  • Long-term outcomes of children with FASD can be improved by early diagnosis and targeted interventions.

Alcohol use in Russia is among the highest in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Yet the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) among Russian children is not well known. In the March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers closely examine a small number of children living in Russian "Baby Homes" for features that might indicate prenatal alcohol exposure. More than half of the Baby-Home residents were found to have features consistent with a diagnosis of FASD.

"More than 600,000 children in Russia reside in various state-run institutions, including Baby Homes, from birth to four years of age, and/or orphanages, for children four years of age and older," said Laurie C. Miller, associate professor of pediatrics at the New England Medical Center and corresponding author for the study. "Although it is recognized that many children residing in Baby Homes and orphanages have been exposed to alcohol prenatally, the information we have is incomplete. For example, the medical records of only 40 percent of the children in our survey indicated that their birth mothers consumed alcohol during the pregnancy. In 56 percent of the cases, no information about alcohol use was available."

For this study, Miller and her colleagues conducted phenotypic screening of 234 Baby-Home residents (121 males, 101 females; gender unknown for 12 children) in the Murmansk region of Russia. "We carefully examined each child residing in the Baby Homes," said


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