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Mainstreaming Genetics: A Comparative Review of Clinical Services for Inherited Cardiovascular Conditions in the UK

Burton H. · Alberg C. · Stewart A.
Foundation for Genomics and Population Health, Cambridge, UK Public Health Genomics 2010;13:235–245 (DOI:10.1159/000279625)

Abstract

Inherited cardiovascular conditions (ICCs) are a group of monogenic disorders caused by mutations in the components of the electrical and contractile system of the heart or its vasculature. ICCs include arrhythmias, cardiomyopathies, inherited arteriopathies such as Marfan syndrome, muscular dystrophies, and familial hypercholesterolaemia. Epidemiological data on ICCs are sparse but a survey of the available literature suggests that there are approximately 340,000 prevalent cases of these conditions in the UK (population 61 million). As a result of dramatic advances in understanding of the molecular pathology of ICCs, more than 50 ICCs have been recognised, and diagnostic genetic tests are increasingly available. As part of a needs assessment and review of provision of ICC services, a survey of all UK ICC services was undertaken focusing on both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Service provision was found to be highly inequitable, with typically a 10–20-fold variation in referral and genetic testing rates between different UK regions. Service levels per million population are much higher in London than in all but one of the regions. The review concluded that capacity of services is inadequate to meet current or future demand and many services lack the critical mass to provide the full range of services. Recommendations are made for the development of services appropriate for the future. Services should be led by cardiology but have close links with clinical genetics services, which should provide support with specialist genetics advice and cascade testing. Finally, the international relevance of this review is considered.

 

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