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25 June 2014 - Medscape - Routine Ultrasound Scans May Detect Autism in Utero

Deborah Brauser

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have more rapidly growing brains and bodies at the beginning of the second trimester than children without the disorder, new research suggests.

A small retrospective study examining fetal anomaly ultrasound scans showed that the children who went on to develop ASD had significantly greater head and abdominal circumference and cerebellar diameter at around 20 weeks' gestation than did their healthy peers.

"This gave us a small window into the fetal development of these children, and it looked like something about autism was happening at that 20-week mark," lead author Lois Salter, a medical student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, toldMedscape Medical News.

"If we could explore this further, it might help with diagnosing earlier and treating earlier. It just opens a whole range of possibilities if autism is detectable this early on," said Salter.

The results were presented here at the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) 2014.