Familial Screening for Left-Sided Congenital Heart Disease: What Is the Evidence? What Is the Cost?

Diseases. 2017 Dec 8;5(4):29. doi: 10.3390/diseases5040029.


Since the American Heart Association's recommendation for familial screening of adults with congenital heart disease for bicuspid aortic valve, similar recommendations for other left-sided heart defects, such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), have been proposed. However, defining at-risk populations for these heart defects based on genetics is less straightforward due to the wide variability of inheritance patterns and non-genetic influences such as environmental and lifestyle factors. We discuss whether there is sufficient evidence to standardize echocardiographic screening for first-degree relatives of children diagnosed with HLHS. Due to variations in the inclusion of cardiac anomalies linked to HLHS and the identification of asymptomatic individuals with cardiac malformations, published studies are open to interpretation. We conclude that familial aggregation of obstructive left-sided congenital heart lesions in families with history of HLHS is not supported and recommend that additional screening should adopt a more conservative definition of what truly constitutes this heart defect. More thorough consideration is needed before embracing familial screening recommendations of families of patients with HLHS, since this could inflict serious costs on healthcare infrastructure and further burden affected families both emotionally and financially.

Keywords: bicuspid aortic valve; congenital heart disease; cost-effectiveness; familial aggregation; familial screening; hypoplastic left heart disease.

Publication types

  • Review