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22.02.2018 | Original Research | Ausgabe 5/2018

Journal of Genetic Counseling 5/2018

Psychosocial Impact of a Positive Gene Result for Asymptomatic Relatives at Risk of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Journal of Genetic Counseling > Ausgabe 5/2018
Carissa Bonner, Catherine Spinks, Christopher Semsarian, Alex Barratt, Jodie Ingles, Kirsten McCaffery
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10897-018-0218-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Carissa Bonner and Catherine Spinks are joint first authors.


Families with a history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) may be offered genetic testing in addition to clinical surveillance. Asymptomatic family members who are gene positive (silent gene carriers) represent a new group of “patients” who may not develop HCM, with little evidence available to assist clinical management. This study explored experiences of HCM genetic testing to identify potential benefits and harms. Thirty-two individuals previously offered genetic testing for HCM were recruited. Semi-structured interviews were conducted face-to-face or by phone, and transcribed audio-recordings were coded using framework analysis. Key themes were as follows: (1) helping the next generation, (2) misunderstanding risk, (3) discrepancy between actual/perceived impact. Participants described multiple psychological (shock, worry, uncertainty) and behavioural (career, sport, insurance, family planning) consequences, depending on perceived risk. Most considered only the benefits of genetic testing for children or grandchildren, but there were some cases of significant adverse impact. The interpretation of the HCM genetic test result is variable for silent gene carriers and can lead to psychological and behavioural changes. The impact of a positive gene result may be mitigated by increased clarity of the clinical consequences and efforts to ensure informed decision-making, highlighting even further the important role of cardiac genetic counselling.

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