Can a parent adjust to the idea that its child is at risk for a sudden death? This question is raised by a diagnostic procedure in which children were tested for an inherited Long QT Syndrome (LQTS). This potentially life-threatening but treatable cardiac arrhythmia syndrome may cause sudden death, especially in children and young adults. The long-term psychological effects are described for parents whose children were tested for inherited LQTS. The adverse short-term impact of such testing has been described previously. The goal of this investigation is to determine whether this distress endures. Thirty-six parents completed measures of psychological distress. With the twenty-four parents of carrier children, a semi-structured interview was held 18 months after DNA disclosure. Parents of carrier children reported more distress than parents of non-carrier children. Parents of carrier children remained vulnerable to high levels of distress; up to one-third of these parents showed clinically relevant high levels of distress. High levels of distress were reported by parents of carrier children who (1) were highly distressed at previous assessments, (2) were familiar with the disease for a longer time, (3) had experienced a sudden death in the family, (4) were lesser educated, and who (5) were unsatisfied with the given information. Parents were particularly concerned about possible hazardous behavior during puberty. We conclude that the continuous threat of developing LQTS symptoms despite prophylactic treatment affected the psychological well-being of the parents for a long time. In light of the tempetuous developments in the areas of cardiac genetics, periodical information on new insight and developments may act as a buffer for the parents' (growing) concerns about their child's inherited disorder. (c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
- genetic testing
- long-term distress