Best-estimate clinical diagnoses of pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) appear to vary widely across regions, according to a study published online in Archives of General Psychiatry.

Diagnostic instruments have been valuable for ASDs by helping to define populations, merge samples, and compare results across studies. However, the use of best-estimate clinical diagnoses has been the gold standard in ASD evaluation.

An observational study analyzed 12 university-based research sites, including 2,102 participants (mostly male) between ages 4 and 18 who had a clinical diagnosis of an ASD. Although there was consistent use of standardized measures and similar distributions of scores across sites, the proportion of children assigned to one of three ASD categories (autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, and Asperger syndrome) varied significantly between sites.

The biggest factors in diagnosis included verbal IQ, language level, and core features of autism (communication and repetitive behaviors). However, clinicians at each site used the available information and set cut-offs on certain measures to establish a diagnosis differently.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know…

Do you feel the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders varies within your medical community?

Could insurance coverage play a role in the diagnosis established?