Importance: Optimal use of whole-exome sequencing (WES) in the pediatric setting requires an understanding of who should be considered for testing and when it should be performed to maximize clinical utility and cost-effectiveness.
Objectives: To investigate the impact of WES in sequencing-naive children suspected of having a monogenic disorder and evaluate its cost-effectiveness if WES had been available at different time points in their diagnostic trajectory.
Design, setting, and participants: This prospective study was part of the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance demonstration project. At the ambulatory outpatient clinics of the Victorian Clinical Genetics Services at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, children older than 2 years suspected of having a monogenic disorder were prospectively recruited from May 1 through November 30, 2015, by clinical geneticists after referral from general and subspecialist pediatricians. All children had nondiagnostic microarrays and no prior single-gene or panel sequencing.
Exposures: All children underwent singleton WES with targeted phenotype-driven analysis.
Main outcomes and measures: The study examined the clinical utility of a molecular diagnosis and the cost-effectiveness of alternative diagnostic trajectories, depending on timing of WES.
Results: Of 61 children originally assessed, 44 (21 [48%] male and 23 [52%] female) aged 2 to 18 years (mean age at initial presentation, 28 months; range, 0-121 months) were recruited, and a diagnosis was achieved in 23 (52%) by singleton WES. The diagnoses were unexpected in 8 of 23 (35%), and clinical management was altered in 6 of 23 (26%). The mean duration of the diagnostic odyssey was 6 years, with each child having a mean of 19 tests and 4 clinical genetics and 4 nongenetics specialist consultations, and 26 (59%) underwent a procedure while under general anesthetic for diagnostic purposes. Economic analyses of the diagnostic trajectory identified that WES performed at initial tertiary presentation resulted in an incremental cost savings of A$9020 (US$6838) per additional diagnosis (95% CI, A$4304-A$15 404 [US$3263-US$11 678]) compared with the standard diagnostic pathway. Even if WES were performed at the first genetics appointment, there would be an incremental cost savings of A$5461 (US$4140) (95% CI, A$1433-A$10 557 [US$1086- US$8004]) per additional diagnosis compared with the standard diagnostic pathway.
Conclusions and relevance: Singleton WES in children with suspected monogenic conditions has high diagnostic yield, and cost-effectiveness is maximized by early application in the diagnostic pathway. Pediatricians should consider early referral of children with undiagnosed syndromes to clinical geneticists.