Diagnostic Yield and Treatment Impact of Targeted Exome Sequencing in Early-Onset Epilepsy


Targeted whole-exome sequencing (WES) is a powerful diagnostic tool for a broad spectrum of heterogeneous neurological disorders. Here, we aim to examine the impact on diagnosis, treatment and cost with early use of targeted WES in early-onset epilepsy.

WES was assessed for 180 patients with early-onset epilepsy (≤ 5 years) of unknown cause. Patients were classified as retrospective (epilepsy diagnosis > 6 months) or prospective (epilepsy diagnosis < 6 months). WES was performed on an Ion ProtonTM and variant reporting was restricted to the sequences of 620 known epilepsy genes. Diagnostic yield and time to diagnosis were calculated. An analysis of cost and impact on treatment was also performed in 50 patients. A molecular diagnoses (pathogenic/likely pathogenic variants) was achieved in 59/180 patients (33%). Clinical management changed following WES findings in 23 of 59 diagnosed patients (39%) or 13% of all patients. A possible diagnosis was identified in 21 additional patients (12%) for whom supporting evidence is pending. Time from epilepsy onset to a genetic diagnosis, when examined in first 50 patients, was faster when WES was performed early in the diagnostic process (mean: 145 days prospective versus 2,882 days retrospective). Costs of prior negative tests averaged $8,344 per patient in the retrospective group, suggesting savings of up to $5,110 per patient. These results support the clinical utility and potential cost-effectiveness of using targeted WES early in the diagnostic workup of patients with unexplained early-onset epilepsy. The costs and clinical benefits are likely to continue to improve. Advances in precision medicine and further studies regarding impact on long-term clinical outcome will be important.



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