Adults with Down's syndrome: the prevalence of complications and health care in the community

Br J Gen Pract. 2007 Jan;57(534):50-5.


Background: Individuals with Down's syndrome are predisposed to a variety of medical conditions which can impose an additional, but preventable, burden of secondary disability. Although there are guidelines for health checks and medical management of children with Down's syndrome, the needs of adults are relatively neglected.

Aim: To determine the prevalence of common medical problems in adults with Down's syndrome, and to assess current practice regarding medical surveillance of these patients.

Design of study: Detailed notes analysis.

Setting: Data were obtained from the primary care records of adults with Down's syndrome living in the Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead areas.

Method: Case notes were reviewed to obtain details regarding complications and to determine the frequency of medical surveillance of individuals with Down's syndrome.

Results: Complications such as hypothyroidism, celiac disease, and obesity occur more frequently in adults with Down's syndrome than previous paediatric prevalence studies suggest. Surveillance of common complications that occur in individuals with Down's syndrome is infrequent. In this study, 48% of adults with Down's syndrome had not seen a doctor in the previous 12 months and 33% had not had a medical assessment in the previous 3 years.

Conclusion: Many individuals with Down's syndrome do not have access to regular healthcare checks, despite the high frequency of common medical complications in adult life. Debate regarding the practicality and relevance of introducing regular health checks is warranted.

Keywords: Down's syndrome; genetic screening; health care surveys; prevalence; screening.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Community Health Services / standards*
  • Down Syndrome / complications*
  • Down Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Down Syndrome / genetics
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing / standards
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence