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Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2011 Sep;8(5):434-7. doi: 10.1513/pats.201103-028SD.

The challenges of diagnosing primary ciliary dyskinesia.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, USA.


Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is a rare genetic disorder of ciliary structure and function. The diagnosis can be challenging, particularly when using nongenetic assays. The "gold standard" diagnostic test is ultrastructural analysis of respiratory cilia obtained by nasal scrape or brush biopsy. A few specialized centers use high-speed videomicroscopy to examine ciliary beat. Certain beat patterns correlate with ultrastructural defects, and, in some cases, subtle alterations in beat pattern can be seen when ultrastructure is normal. Recent studies have shown that nasal nitric oxide (NO) is very low in patients with PCD compared with healthy control subjects; therefore, this assay may be a useful screening or adjunctive test for PCD. Because acute respiratory illnesses may yield alterations in ciliary ultrastructure, ciliary beat, and nasal NO values, these tests should be performed during a stable baseline period. Identification of an array of PCD genes has provided the opportunity for making a definitive genetic diagnosis for PCD in some cases. All of these approaches have a role in diagnosing PCD. For example, PCD has been confirmed by identifying disease-causing mutations in a heavy dynein chain gene in individuals with normal ciliary ultrastructure but subtle defects in ciliary beat and low nasal NO. Priorities to improve nongenetic diagnostic capability include standardization of nasal NO as a screening test and the development of specialized centers using uniform approaches for the analysis of ciliary ultrastructure and ciliary beat pattern. Another chapter in this issue (see Zariwala and colleagues, pp. 430) addresses the progress toward improved capabilities for definitive genetic testing.

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