OBJECTIVE: Universal newborn screening for hemoglobinopathies started in The Netherlands in 2007. Herewith severe conditions, such as sickle cell disease, β-thalassemia major and hemoglobin H disease are putatively identified. Additionally, at least 1,800 carriers of hemoglobin variants associated with severe conditions in homozygote or compound heterozygote forms are identified yearly. Thus far, approximately 60 patients and 800 healthy sickle cell (HbS) carriers are reported each year among 180,000 newborns. Results are sent to the general practitioner with the recommendation to inform and diagnose both parents of the healthy carriers to exclude genetic risk, while patients and their parents are referred directly to a pediatrician. This study was performed to determine how often parents of identified carriers and affected newborns are seen in genetic centers for counseling.
METHODS: In this retrospective study, we collected anonymized data from 7 of the 8 Dutch clinical genetic centers from January 1, 2007, until December 31, 2010.
RESULTS: After an initial general increase in total counseling intakes, a decline was noticed in the third year, while the requests for prenatal diagnoses remained relatively stable. In 2007 and 2013, genetic counselors were asked for self-reported knowledge. They found hemoglobinopathy counseling complex, but by 2013, they indicated they had acquired sufficient knowledge on most hemoglobinopathy aspects.
CONCLUSION: We could not observe a significant increase in genetic counseling for hemoglobinopathy after its introduction into newborn screening. Although 120 HbS carriers and 60 patients are expected to be born from couples at risk annually, only 33 at risk couples out of 540 families of diagnosed newborns received optimal care and information at a genetics center in 4 years.
- Carrier testing
- Family planning
- General practitioners
- Genetic counseling
- Newborn screening