Pulmonary arterial hypertension: Specialists' knowledge, practices, and attitudes of genetic counseling and genetic testing in the USA

Pulm Circ. Apr-Jun 2017;7(2):372-383. doi: 10.1177/2045893217700156. Epub 2017 Mar 27.


Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is characterized by obstruction of pre-capillary pulmonary arteries, which leads to sustained elevation of pulmonary arterial pressure. Identifying those at risk through early interventions, such as genetic testing, may mitigate disease course. Current practice guidelines recommend genetic counseling and offering genetic testing to individuals with heritable PAH, idiopathic PAH, and their family members. However, it is unclear if PAH specialists follow these recommendations. Thus, our research objective was to determine PAH specialists' knowledge, utilization, and perceptions about genetic counseling and genetic testing. A survey was designed and distributed to PAH specialists who primarily work in the USA to assess their knowledge, practices, and attitudes about the genetics of PAH. Participants' responses were analyzed using parametric and non-parametric statistics and groups were compared using the Wilcoxon rank sum test. PAH specialists had low perceived and actual knowledge of the genetics of PAH, with 13.2% perceiving themselves as knowledgeable and 27% actually being knowledgeable. Although these specialists had positive or ambivalent attitudes about genetic testing and genetic counseling, they had poor utilization of these genetic services, with almost 80% of participants never or rarely ordering genetic testing or referring their patients with PAH for genetic counseling. Physicians were more knowledgeable, but had lower perceptions of the value of genetic testing and genetic counseling compared to non-physicians ( P < 0.05). The results suggest that increased education and awareness is needed about the genetics of PAH as well as the benefits of genetic testing and genetic counseling for individuals who treat patients with PAH.

Keywords: genetic counseling; genetic testing; genetics; pulmonary arterial hypertension.