Clinical diagnostics in adults with hereditary neurological diseases is complicated by clinical and genetic heterogeneity, as well as lifestyle effects. Here, we evaluate the effectiveness of exome sequencing and clinical costs in our difficult-to-diagnose adult patient cohort. Additionally, we expand the phenotypic and genetic spectrum of hereditary neurological disorders in Finland.
We performed clinical exome sequencing (CES) to 100 adult patients from Finland with neurological symptoms of suspected genetic cause. The patients were classified as myopathy (n = 57), peripheral neuropathy (n = 16), ataxia (n = 15), spastic paraplegia (n = 4), Parkinsonism (n = 3), and mixed (n = 5). In addition, we gathered the costs of prior diagnostic work-up to retrospectively assess the cost-effectiveness of CES as a first-line diagnostic tool.
The overall diagnostic yield of CES was 27%. Pathogenic variants were found for 14 patients (in genes ANO5, CHCHD10, CLCN1, DES, DOK7, FKBP14, POLG, PYROXD1, SCN4A, TUBB3, and TTN) and likely pathogenic previously undescribed variants for 13 patients (in genes ABCD1, AFG3L2, ATL1, CACNA1A, COL6A1, DYSF, IRF2BPL, KCNA1, MT–ATP6, SAMD9L, SGCB, and TPM2). Age of onset below 40 years increased the probability of finding a genetic cause. Our cost evaluation of prior diagnostic work-up suggested that early CES would be cost-effective in this patient group, in which diagnostic costs increase linearly with prolonged investigations.
Based on our results, CES is a cost-effective, powerful first-line diagnostic tool in establishing the molecular diagnosis in adult neurological patients with variable symptoms. Importantly, CES can markedly shorten the diagnostic odysseys of about one third of patients.