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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: a validity study of the fetal alcohol syndrome checklist

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a common cause of developmental disability, birth defects, and mortality. The performance characteristics of current diagnostic tools for FASD are not adequately reported. 

This study examines the performance characteristics of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic Checklist (FASDC). 

In a population of 658 subjects from North Dakota, we used the FASDC score to examine the agreement between FASDC score, clinical diagnosis, and the Institute of Medicine criteria for FASD. All subjects were seen for evaluation in the genetic/dysmorphology clinics, which are funded by the state to provide genetic diagnostic services for residents of North Dakota. 

We compared the clinical diagnosis and the FASDC scores to determine the performance characteristics of the FASDC in the categorical diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum (FAS), other-FASD, and a group with No-FASD. Comparisons were made using univariate and logistic models of outcomes using both the presence and the absence of alcohol exposure or FASDC phenotype data. 

The FASDC performance characteristics for differentiation of the FAS group from non-FASD were excellent (accuracy 99%, sensitivity 99%, and specificity 99%). Logistic models for subjects with scores in the FASD range were differentiated with an accuracy of 82%, sensitivity 85%, and specificity 80% using the data on phenotype and exposure. 

We were able to delineate subjects with scores in the No-FASD range with an accuracy of 78%, sensitivity 64%, and specificity 81% without including the exposure and phenotype data by use of the other descriptive data (maternal characteristics, birth records, and demographic data) from the FASDC. 

All diagnostic tools should have performance characteristics assessed and available before adoption for use in clinical settings. The FASDC scores produce diagnostic groupings that approximate expert clinical judgment. 

The tool may be useful in other clinical settings for the diagnosis of FASD or as an FASD registry or research database.

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