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Am J Med Genet. 1999 Jan 1;82(1):60-6.

Diagnostic yield of the comprehensive assessment of developmental delay/mental retardation in an institute of child neuropsychiatry.

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Stella Maris Scientific Research Institute, Institute of Child Neurology and Psychiatry, University of Pisa, Calambrone, Italy.


The Consensus Conference of the American College of Medical Genetics has established guidelines regarding the evaluation of patients with mental retardation (MR) [Curry et al., Am. J. Med. Genet. 72:468-477, 1997]. They emphasized the high diagnostic utility of cytogenetic studies and of neuroimaging in certain clinical settings. However, data on the diagnostic yield of these studies in well-characterized populations of individuals with MR are scant. Majnemer and Shevell [J. Pediatr. 127:193-199, 1995] attained a diagnostic yield of 63%. However, this study included only 60 patients and the classification included pathogenetic and causal groups. The Stella Maris Institute has evaluated systematically patients with developmental delay (DD)/MR and performed various laboratory studies and neuroimaging in almost all patients. We report a retrospective analysis of the diagnostic yield of 120 consecutive patients observed at our Institute during the first 6 months of 1996. There were 77 males and 43 females; 47 were mildly delayed (IQ 70-50), 31 were moderately delayed (IQ 50-35), and 42 were severely delayed (IQ 35-20). Diagnostic studies (history, physical examination, standard cytogenetics, fragile X testing, molecular studies, electroencephalography, electromyography, nerve conduction studies, neuroimaging, and metabolic screening tests) yielded a causal diagnosis in 50 (41.6%) and a pathogenetic diagnosis in 47 (39.2%) of the 120 patients. Causal categories included chromosomal abnormalities (14), Fra(X) syndromes (4), known MCA/MR syndromes (19), fetal environmental syndromes (1), neurometabolic (3) disorders, neurocutaneous (3) disorders, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (3), other encephalopathies (1), and congenital bilateral perisylvian syndrome (2). Pathogenetic categories included idiopathic MCA/MR syndromes (35), epileptic syndromes (10), and isolated lissencephaly sequence (2). Diagnostic yield did not differ across categories and degree of DD. Our results, while confirming the diagnostic utility of cytogenetic/molecular genetic, and neuroimaging studies, suggest the usefulness of accurate electroencephalogram recordings, and stress the importance of a thorough physical examination. Referral to a university child neurology and psychiatry service, where a comprehensive assessment with a selected battery of investigations is possible, yields etiologic findings in a high percentage of DD/MR patients, with important implications for management, prognosis and recurrence risk estimate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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