Computed tomography assessment of peripubertal craniofacial morphology in a sheep model of binge alcohol drinking in the first trimester

Sharla M. Birch, Mark W. Lenox, Joe N. Kornegay, Li Shen, Huisi Ai, Xiaowei Ren, Charles R. Goodlett, Tim A. Cudd, Shannon E. Washburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Identification of facial dysmorphology is essential for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS); however, most children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) do not meet the dysmorphology criterion. Additional objective indicators are needed to help identify the broader spectrum of children affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. Computed tomography (CT) was used in a sheep model of prenatal binge alcohol exposure to test the hypothesis that quantitative measures of craniofacial bone volumes and linear distances could identify alcohol-exposed lambs. Pregnant sheep were randomly assigned to four groups: heavy binge alcohol, 2.5 g/kg/day (HBA); binge alcohol, 1.75 g/kg/day (BA); saline control (SC); and normal control (NC). Intravenous alcohol (BA; HBA) or saline (SC) infusions were given three consecutive days per week from gestation day 4-41, and a CT scan was performed on postnatal day 182. The volumes of eight skull bones, cranial circumference, and 19 linear measures of the face and skull were compared among treatment groups. Lambs from both alcohol groups showed significant reduction in seven of the eight skull bones and total skull bone volume, as well as cranial circumference. Alcohol exposure also decreased four of the 19 craniofacial measures. Discriminant analysis showed that alcohol-exposed and control lambs could be classified with high accuracy based on total skull bone volume, frontal, parietal, or mandibular bone volumes, cranial circumference, or interorbital distance. Total skull volume was significantly more sensitive than cranial circumference in identifying the alcohol-exposed lambs when alcohol-exposed lambs were classified using the typical FAS diagnostic cutoffof ≤10th percentile. This first demonstration of the usefulness of CT-derived craniofacial measures in a sheep model of FASD following binge-like alcohol exposure during the first trimester suggests that volumetric measurement of cranial bones may be a novel biomarker for binge alcohol exposure during the first trimester to help identify non-dysmorphic children with FASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-689
Number of pages15
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 2 2015



  • Anthropometry
  • Computed tomography
  • Diagnosis
  • Facial dysmorphology
  • FASD
  • Prenatal alcohol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Medicine(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neurology
  • Toxicology
  • Health(social science)

Cite this

Birch, S. M., Lenox, M. W., Kornegay, J. N., Shen, L., Ai, H., Ren, X., Goodlett, C. R., Cudd, T. A., & Washburn, S. E. (2015). Computed tomography assessment of peripubertal craniofacial morphology in a sheep model of binge alcohol drinking in the first trimester. Alcohol, 49(7), 675-689.