Fetal alcohol syndrome


00:00 / 00:00



Fetal alcohol syndrome

Psychological disorders

Mood disorders

Major depressive disorder


Bipolar disorder

Seasonal affective disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Anxiety disorders

Generalized anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder

Panic disorder



Obsessive-compulsive disorders

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Body focused repetitive disorders

Body dysmorphic disorder

Stress-related disorders and abuse

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Physical and sexual abuse

Psychotic disorders

Schizoaffective disorder

Schizophreniform disorder

Delusional disorder


Cognitive and dissociative disorders



Dissociative disorders

Eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa

Personality disorders

Cluster A personality disorders

Cluster B personality disorders

Cluster C personality disorders

Somatoform and factitious disorders

Somatic symptom disorder

Factitious disorder

Substance use disorders and drugs of abuse

Tobacco dependence

Opioid dependence

Cannabis dependence

Cocaine dependence

Alcohol use disorder

Sleep disorders


Nocturnal enuresis


Night terrors

Narcolepsy (NORD)

Sexual dysfunction disorders

Erectile dysfunction

Male hypoactive sexual desire disorder

Orgasmic dysfunction

Female sexual interest and arousal disorder

Genito-pelvic pain and penetration disorder

Pediatric disorders

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Disruptive, impulse control, and conduct disorders

Learning disability

Fetal alcohol syndrome

Tourette syndrome

Autism spectrum disorder

Rett syndrome

Shaken baby syndrome



Psychiatric emergencies


Serotonin syndrome

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome

Psychological disorders review

Mood disorders: Pathology review

Amnesia, dissociative disorders and delirium: Pathology review

Personality disorders: Pathology review

Eating disorders: Pathology review

Psychological sleep disorders: Pathology review

Psychiatric emergencies: Pathology review

Drug misuse, intoxication and withdrawal: Hallucinogens: Pathology review

Malingering, factitious disorders and somatoform disorders: Pathology review

Anxiety disorders, phobias and stress-related disorders: Pathology Review

Trauma- and stress-related disorders: Pathology review

Schizophrenia spectrum disorders: Pathology review

Drug misuse, intoxication and withdrawal: Stimulants: Pathology review

Drug misuse, intoxication and withdrawal: Alcohol: Pathology review

Developmental and learning disorders: Pathology review

Childhood and early-onset psychological disorders: Pathology review


Fetal alcohol syndrome


0 / 7 complete

USMLE® Step 1 questions

0 / 1 complete

High Yield Notes

15 pages


Fetal alcohol syndrome

of complete


USMLE® Step 1 style questions USMLE

of complete

A 1-day-old male infant is brought to the newborn nursery two hours after birth. He was born via vaginal delivery at 38 weeks gestation. The infant’s mother did not receive prenatal care. Family history is unremarkable for hereditary disorders. Weight and length are at the 5th percentile. Vitals are within normal limits. Physical examination reveals microcephaly, short palpebral fissures, a thin vermillion border, and a smooth philtrum. A harsh holosystolic murmur is heard at the lower left sternal border on cardiac auscultation. This infant’s physical exam findings are most likely secondary to in-utero exposure to which of the following?  

External References

First Aid








Atrial septal defect (ASD) p. 305

fetal alcohol syndrome p. 306

Developmental delay

fetal alcohol syndrome p. 639


in fetal alcohol syndrome p. 640

Fetal alcohol syndrome p. 306, 638, 639

holoprosencephaly in p. 505

Holoprosencephaly p. 505

fetal alcohol syndrome p. 639

Intellectual disability

fetal alcohol syndrome p. 639


fetal alcohol syndrome p. 639

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)

fetal alcohol syndrome p. 306

Tetralogy of Fallot p. 304

fetal alcohol syndrome p. 306

Ventricular septal defect (VSD) p. 305, 728

fetal alcohol syndrome p. 306


Content Reviewers

Viviana Popa, MD


Jung Hee Lee, MScBMC

Maria Emfietzoglou, MD

Fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS, occurs because of maternal use of alcohol during pregnancy.

It’s currently the leading cause of intellectual disability in the US and can cause characteristic physical abnormalities.

Normally, the fetus is connected to the placenta by the umbilical cord, so the fetus gets oxygen and nutrients from the mother.

Unfortunately, ethanol and toxic alcohol metabolites like acetaldehyde also pass freely through the placenta, but the fetal liver doesn’t have the necessary enzymes to metabolize them, so they build up inside the fetus really fast.

In FAS, ethanol interferes with cell division and proliferation, cell growth and differentiation, and with the migration of mature cells to their final location in the developing embryo, which affects the development of various fetal tissues, including the brain.

Alcohol-induced brain damage includes partial or complete agenesis of the corpus callosum, which links the two hemispheres together, so it either forms incompletely, or not at all.

This causes intellectual disability and seizures.

When the frontal cortex and the hippocampus are affected, this causes poor memory and communication skills, as well as intellectual disability.

The cerebellum can also be smaller in size, called hypoplasia, leading to trouble with movement and balance.

The most common symptom of FAS is growth retardation, resulting in low height and weight.


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. FASD can include physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities.

There is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and drinking any amount can cause FASD. FASD is 100% preventable if women don't drink alcohol during pregnancy. If a woman does drink alcohol during pregnancy, there is no way to know for sure how her child will be affected.


  1. "Robbins Basic Pathology" Elsevier (2017)
  2. "Harrison’s principles of internal medicine" McGraw Hill Education / Medical (2018)
  3. "Pathophysiology of Disease: An Introduction to Clinical Medicine 8E" McGraw-Hill Education / Medical (2018)
  4. "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 )" American Psychiatric Association (2013)

Copyright © 2023 Elsevier, except certain content provided by third parties

Cookies are used by this site.

USMLE® is a joint program of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). COMLEX-USA® is a registered trademark of The National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, Inc. NCLEX-RN® is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. Test names and other trademarks are the property of the respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are endorsed by nor affiliated with Osmosis or this website.