Clinical utility of exome sequencing in infantile heart failure



Pediatric cardiomyopathy is rare, has a broad differential diagnosis, results in high morbidity and mortality, and has suboptimal diagnostic yield using next-generation sequencing panels. Exome sequencing has reported diagnostic yields ranging from 30% to 57% for neonates in intensive care units. We aimed to characterize the clinical utility of exome sequencing in infantile heart failure.


Infants diagnosed with acute heart failure prior to 1 year old over a period of 34 months at a large tertiary children’s hospital were recruited. Demographic and diagnostic information was obtained from medical records. Fifteen eligible patients were enrolled.


Dilated cardiomyopathy was the predominant cardiac diagnosis, seen in 60% of patients. A molecular diagnosis was identified in 66.7% of patients (10/15). Of those diagnoses, 70% would not have been detected using multigene next-generation sequencing panels focused on cardiomyopathy or arrhythmia disease genes. Genetic testing changed medical decision-making in 53% of all cases and 80% of positive cases, and was especially beneficial when testing was expedited.


Given the broad differential diagnosis and critical status of infants with heart failure, rapid exome sequencing provides timely diagnoses, changes medical management, and should be the first-tier molecular test.

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Fig. 1: Patient characteristics.


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Correspondence to Rebecca C. Ahrens-Nicklas MD PhD.

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J.J., D.C. and S.Y. are employees of GeneDx, Inc. The other authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Ritter, A., Bedoukian, E., Berger, J.H. et al. Clinical utility of exome sequencing in infantile heart failure. Genet Med 22, 423–426 (2020).

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  • exome sequencing
  • heart failure
  • cardiomyopathy
  • pediatric
  • clinical utility


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