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Semin Pediatr Neurol. 2008 Mar;15(1):2-9. doi: 10.1016/j.spen.2008.01.002.

Genetic evaluation of intellectual disabilities.

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Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH, USA.


All children with an intellectual disability (mental retardation) or global developmental delay should have a comprehensive evaluation to establish the etiology of the disability. A specific etiologic diagnosis offers the opportunity to discuss treatment, prognosis, and genetic recurrence risk. A diagnosis also avoids unnecessary testing and can lead to opportunities for improved health and functional outcomes. The key elements of the diagnostic evaluation are the medical and developmental history, 3-generation family history, dysmorphologic examination, neurologic examination, and judicious use of the laboratory and neuroimaging. All published guidelines for the evaluation of children with intellectual disability acknowledge that there is a substantial percentage of patients who are undiagnosed after a comprehensive evaluation and who deserve ongoing follow-up for the purpose of establishing a diagnosis. Recently, studies of the clinical application of array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) to individuals with intellectual disability indicate that this approach provides a diagnosis in as much as 10% of patients and that this technique is replacing the use of fluorescent in situ hybridization for subtelomere imbalances now used for such patients when the standard karyotype is normal. The literature suggests that history and examination by an expert clinician will lead to a diagnosis in 2 of 3 patients in whom a diagnosis is made. Laboratory studies alone, including neuroimaging, provide a diagnosis in the remaining one third. The approach to the evaluation of the patient in whom an etiologic diagnosis is not suspected after the history and physical examinations includes a standard karyotype, Fragile X molecular genetic testing, aCGH, and neuroimaging, based on the evidence to date. One can expect rapid changes in the microarray technology in the near future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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