Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2023 Sep 2:107292. doi: 10.1016/j.ntt.2023.107292. Online ahead of print.
AIM: To describe the neurodevelopmental phenotype of older children and adults with a diagnosis of Fetal Valproate Spectrum Disorder (FVSD).
METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, 90 caregivers were recruited and completed a series of questionnaires regarding the neurodevelopmental outcomes of 146 individuals aged 7-37 years (M = 18.1), including individuals with a formal diagnosis of FVSD (n = 99), individuals exposed to Valproate but without an FVSD diagnosis (n = 24), and individuals not exposed to Valproate (N = 23). The mean dose of valproate exposure for individuals with an FVSD diagnosis was 1470 mg/day.
RESULTS: Individuals with a diagnosis FVSD showed significantly higher levels of moderate (43.4%) and severe (14.4%) cognitive impairment than other groups (p = 0.003), high levels of required formal educational support (77.6%), and poorer academic competence than individuals not exposed to Valproate (p = 0.001). Overall psychosocial problems (p = 0.02), internalising problems (p = 0.05) and attention problems (p = 0.001), but not externalising problems, were elevated in individuals with a diagnosis of FVSD. Rates of neurodevelopmental disorders, particularly autistic spectrum conditions (62.9%) and sensory problems (80.6%) are particularly central to the FVSD phenotype. There was no evidence of a statistical dose-dependent effect, possibly due to the high mean dose of exposure having a uniformly negative impact across the sample. Individuals with FVSD had required a significant number of health and child development services.
INTERPRETATION: Children and young adults with a diagnosis of FVSD are at an increased risk of a range of altered neurodevelopmental outcomes, highlighting the need for a multidisciplinary approach to clinical management across the lifespan.