Genetic screening by nurses for inherited cardiac diseases could reduce referrals

Posted by: admin on: November 23, 2011

In cancer genetics, trained nurses in secondary care can identify some of the candidates with inherited cancer, from the family histories. A study conducted supported that same can probably work with cardiac disease.


Training hospital nurses to carry out genetic testing for cardiovascular diseases before triage could significantly reduce the number of referrals to specialist genetics services, research suggests.

The study adopted a network approach. Three nurses were recruited and trained to MSc (Master of Science) level in genetics sciences and counselling, to enable them to take family histories and communicate genetic information.

The researchers then worked with the Cardiovascular Network to develop ratified guidelines that included referral guidelines into the service, and guidelines for the nurses, which instructed them exactly how to do their job. These guidelines included information on which questions to ask while taking a family history, how to interpret the family history, and which subsequent tests to do.

If a patient was found to be at risk for inherited cardiac disease, the nurses drew a pedigree and identified who else in their immediate family was potentially at risk. Patients and those family members at risk were then offered an electrocardiogram (ECG) scan. Patients found not to be at risk were discharged back to the referring doctor.

Preliminary results showed that of all the families referred to the genetics service; approximately 40% had inherited heart disease.

This means that nearly 60% of families who came through pre-genetics triage did not need to be referred through to the genetics service.


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