Peripheral nerve conduction abnormalities in children exposed to alcohol in utero
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Objective We performed a longitudinal study of nerve conduction velocity to determine the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure on the peripheral nervous system. Study design We studied 17 children exposed to >2 oz of absolute alcohol/day prenatally and 13 unexposed children, identified prospectively from a cohort of pregnant women screened during prenatal care. Nerve conduction assessment was done on the median, ulnar, peroneal and tibial nerves during the newborn period and between 12 and 14 months of age. Results At both assessments the alcohol-exposed subjects had significantly slower ulnar motor nerve velocity (P = .007), smaller proximal (P = .018) and distal amplitude (P = .051). They also showed reduced tibial nerve velocity (P = .06) and a decrease in distal amplitude. Conclusions This study demonstrates that prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with abnormalities in nerve electrical properties, and that the pattern is different from that seen in adults. Electrophysiologic abnormalities in peripheral nerves should be added to the problems found in children of alcohol abusing mothers.