The clinical utility of an SCN1A genetic diagnosis in infantile-onset epilepsy

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2013 Feb;55(2):154-61. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.12030. Epub 2012 Nov 20.


Aim: Genetic testing in the epilepsies is becoming an increasingly accessible clinical tool. Mutations in the sodium channel alpha 1 subunit (SCN1A) gene are most notably associated with Dravet syndrome. This is the first study to assess the impact of SCN1A testing on patient management from both carer and physician perspectives.

Method: Participants were identified prospectively from referrals to the Epilepsy Genetics Service in Glasgow and contacted via their referring clinicians. Questionnaires exploring the consequences of SCN1A genetic testing for each case were sent to carers and physicians.

Results: Of the 244 individuals contacted, 182 (75%) carried a SCN1A mutation. Carers of 187 (77%) patients responded (90 females, 97 males; mean age at referral 4 y 10 mo; interquartile range 9 y 1 mo). Of those participants whose children tested positive for a mutation, 87% reported that genetic testing was helpful, leading to treatment changes resulting in fewer seizures and improved access to therapies and respite care. Out of 187 physicians, 163 responded (87%), of whom 48% reported that a positive test facilitated diagnosis earlier than with clinical and electroencephalography data alone. It prevented additional investigations in 67% of patients, altered treatment approach in 69%, influenced medication choice in 74%, and, through medication change, improved seizure control in 42%.

Interpretation: In addition to confirming a clinical diagnosis, a positive SCN1A test result influenced treatment choice and assisted in accessing additional therapies, especially in the very young.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic / genetics
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / genetics*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • SCN1A protein, human