Marfan syndrome in Europe

Community Genet. 2004;7(4):216-25. doi: 10.1159/000082265.


Objectives: Marfan syndrome (MFS) is a relatively frequent systemic connective tissue disorder with an important physical morbidity and mortality. The influences of MFS on physical problems, perception of severity, and impact on the quality of life and psychosocial well-being have been studied only limitedly. The aim of this study was to assess the association between the severity derived from the reported symptoms and subjectively experienced severity of MFS (expressed as a global judgment), with special emphasis regarding impact on relationships and pregnancies, psychosocial adjustment, and differences between the seven European countries.

Methods: A questionnaire designed specifically for this study and translated in each of the native languages was sent to 2,080 members of one of the patient support groups in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. 857 MFS patients of 13 years and older completed the questionnaire and were included in the data analysis.

Results: Physical impairments were scored by perception of severity of physical symptoms by the patients (physical severity perception score) and by their perception of the influence of MFS on their life (subjective severity score). Main discrepancy between physical severity perception and subjective severity score was the higher percentage of patients scoring in physical severity perception as severe (53.5%) compared to subjectively severe (26.5%). 61% of those who scored on the physical severity score as severely affected were designated as being mildly-moderately affected on subjective scoring. Both severity scores increased significantly with age. Two hundred-twenty women have carried 430 pregnancies (1.95 pregnancies/woman), with cardiovascular complications in 1.6%. Prenatal studies for MFS were rejected by 7.6% of MFS patients of 25 years and older, 33.6% were undecided, and 48.5% favored prenatal diagnosis for MFS if available. A positive general self-image was reported by 91.5% of patients. However, more than 90% stated that MFS had a negative influence on their sexual relationships, which they ascribed to negative perception of their body image.

Conclusions: MFS has significant impact on daily life activities, but the majority of patients come to terms with their condition. Acceptance is mainly determined by subjective severity, and less by physical symptoms as reported by the patients themselves. It is important to stimulate a positive attitude towards MFS.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marfan Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Marfan Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Marfan Syndrome / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires