Role of the family physician in the care of children with Down syndrome

Am Fam Physician. 2014 Dec 15;90(12):851-8.


Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality, occurring in one in 691 live births in the United States each year. Prenatally, the sequential contingent test for aneuploidy screening is highly sensitive for Down syndrome and has a low false-positive rate. The diagnosis should be confirmed with fluorescent in situ hybridization followed by chromosomal karyotyping at birth. Children with Down syndrome have varied degrees of intellectual disability and more health complications than other children. However, advancements in recent decades have led to improved life expectancy, satisfaction, and quality of life. Newborns with Down syndrome require echocardiography and cardiology evaluation. Children should have annual screenings for vision and hearing, and laboratory studies for subclinical thyroid disease and blood disorders. Clinicians should provide unbiased and comprehensive culturally sensitive information regarding available services for children with Down syndrome. There is good evidence that comprehensive early intervention programs (e.g., speech, visual, physical, and occupational therapy; child psychology) enhance development. It is important to enroll children with Down syndrome in state-specific resources as early as possible. Given the advances in medical care and early intervention programs, regular health supervision by family physicians can allow children with Down syndrome to lead healthy and productive lives.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Down Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Down Syndrome* / genetics
  • Down Syndrome* / physiopathology
  • Down Syndrome* / psychology
  • Down Syndrome* / therapy
  • Early Intervention, Educational / methods*
  • Education of Intellectually Disabled / methods*
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neonatal Screening / methods
  • Physician's Role
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods
  • Quality of Life*