FEB 10, 2022 5:30 PM PST

Prenatal Ultrasound Detects Early Signs of Autism

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Clinicians may be able to identify early signs of autism from a routine second-trimester ultrasound. The corresponding study was published in Brain by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. 

While some studies suggest that autism may be rooted in a prenatal predisposition, there is little robust data connecting fetal abnormalities to children later diagnosed with autism. Research into this area could help expectant parents and clinicians prepare interventions to reduce symptoms of autism from birth instead of waiting for 2 years of age or older. 

For the present study, the researchers analyzed health data alongside ultrasounds from 659 children, including 229 with an autism diagnosis, 201 of their closest-in-age siblings, and 229 typically developing children. 

After analyzing the ultrasounds, the researchers reported fetal ultrasonography anomalies in 29.3% of those with autism, compared to just 15.9% and 9.5% of their closest-in-age siblings and typically developing children. They also noted that autism was most associated with anomalies in the urinary system, heart, head, and brain. 

They further found that those with autism tended to have a narrower head and a relatively wider ocular distance compared to typically developing fetuses. Other findings included 43.1% of females with autism having anomalies, whereas the same being true for just 25.3% of males. Meanwhile, there were no differences between males and females among the other groups. 

"Doctors can use these signs, discernable during a routine ultrasound, to evaluate the probability of the child being born with ASD," says Prof. Idan Menashe, lead author of the study, "Previous studies have shown that children born with congenital diseases, primarily those involving the heart and kidneys, had a higher chance of developing ASD. Our findings suggest that certain types of ASD that involve other organ anomalies begin and can be detected in utero."


Sources: BrainScience Daily


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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