Duke's pediatric cardiologists and cardiovascular geneticists diagnose and treat inherited heart diseases, like certain arrhythmias, cardiomyopathies, heart malformations, and other conditions that can cause sudden cardiac death. We work closely with medical geneticists and genetic counselors to provide individualized evaluation, genetic testing, and guidance for children with genetic heart diseases and their families. Using advanced methods, we personalize the entire process so that you can make informed health care decisions for your child, his or her siblings, and the rest of your family.
Genetics and Your Child’s Heart
Expert Care Is Crucial
If someone in your family has a genetic heart condition or has experienced sudden cardiac death, it’s important to test relatives early in life to help identify if any family members are at risk. In cases where there is no known family history, your child’s pediatrician or a pediatric cardiologist may detect genetic heart disease upon hearing a heart murmur or an irregular heartbeat or learning your child has experienced unexplained fainting, dizziness, heart palpitations, trouble breathing, chest pain, or weight loss.
True genetic heart disease is rare and can be challenging to diagnose, so it’s important to be evaluated by a true expert. Because genetic heart conditions sometimes affect more than one person in a family, it’s vital that your child gets the right testing and that a team of experts helps your family understand and act on test results. At Duke, we offer highly specialized genetic testing to identify a range of inherited heart disorders, including:
- Arrhythmias: long QT syndrome, short QT syndrome, Brugada syndrome, catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, and idiopathic ventricular fibrillation
- Cardiomyopathies: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, left ventricular non-compaction, dilated cardiomyopathy, and restrictive cardiomyopathy
- Connective tissue disorders: Loeys-Dietz and Marfan syndromes
- Malformations of the heart and other congenital heart defects: hypoplastic left heart syndrome, tricuspid atresia, atrial or ventricular septal defects, and more
As part of the Undiagnosed Diseases Network, find out how Duke collaborated to discover one teenager's mysterious cause of death and helped protect his siblings from a similar fate.
Why Choose Duke
Our team of pediatric cardiologists, genetic counselors, heart surgeons, electrophysiologists, and others work together to identify and manage your child’s heart health. At Duke you’ll have access to various specialists and subspecialists, all working toward the same goal of keeping your child healthy. Our dedicated nurse navigator helps you manage your child’s evaluation and treatment journey, including scheduling appointments, setting up physician referrals, answering questions, and being the main point of contact for your child’s care team.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
Our specialized pediatric cardiologists collect a thorough medical and family history, perform a physical exam, and order testing that may include:
Electrodes are placed on your child’s chest to record the heart's electrical function. This test is quick and painless.
CT and MRI Screenings
Machines capture images of your child’s overall heart structure, heart muscle function, and blood vessels. These tests usually take at least 30 minutes and are also painless.
Your child will exercise on a treadmill while his or her heart function is recorded with electrocardiography and blood pressure monitoring.
Your child will be fitted with a 24-hour wearable heart monitor that will record heart activity and abnormalities over the course of a day.
Our participation in the latest research on how genes influence heart disease ensures we are up-to-date on the most advanced treatments available. Your child may also be eligible to participate in clinical trials studying new therapies that aren’t available elsewhere.
Cardiovascular Genetics Services
In addition to heart testing, your child may benefit from specialized genetic testing and counseling.
Blood and/or saliva samples are gathered to examine your child’s DNA. These tests can determine whether your child carries a gene or a genetic mutation that could increase the risk for an inherited heart condition. We personalize testing to each child we see.
Advanced Heart Disease Detection
Our doctors are also scientists who are nationally recognized for using individual genetic studies to discover genetic heart disease. Through a simple blood draw, our researchers can extract blood cells, revert them into stem cells, and then direct them to grow into heart cells. By observing these cells as they mature, researchers can learn more about what genetic components may be causing heart problems.
A genetic counselor and your doctor will share with you the results of your child’s genetic testing, taking time to educate you about your child’s condition, address your concerns, offer emotional support, connect you with resources, and discuss appropriate next steps.
Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in nine pediatric specialties.