, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 566-577
Date: 02 Oct 2010

Use of Genetics in the Clinical Evaluation and Management of Heart Failure

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Opinion statement

Inherited forms of cardiomyopathy are common causes of heart failure. Applications of genetics in the evaluation and management of heart failure include the determination of inheritance patterns within families with cardiomyopathy, the evaluation of affected patients for syndromic features, the determination of people within families who are at risk of heart failure, and the identification of responsible gene mutations. Family planning may also be assisted by determination of a clear mutation that predisposes to heart failure. Genetic counseling is critical, and it should accompany the use of genetic testing in cardiovascular diseases. With the rapid pace of growth in technology that is used to determine DNA sequence, costs have declined and clinical application of genetic testing has expanded. This is particularly relevant for heart failure, because each of the familial forms of cardiomyopathy may be caused by a mutation in many different genes. Most families share a unique gene mutation, and appropriate interpretation of novel DNA variants is essential for proper use. The evaluation of risk of arrhythmia in familial forms of heart failure may benefit from genetic testing, as mutations in the genes encoding lamin A/C, desmin, and cardiac troponin T are associated with increased risk of sudden cardiac death. Because of its complexity and the rapid rate of change in available genetic testing options, the genetic evaluation of heart failure is best suited to tertiary referral centers with specific expertise in this area.