Health checks needed in adults with Down's syndrome

Practices should carry out structured health checks for adults with Down's Syndrome according to a study in the British Journal of General Practice.

Health checks for adults with Down's syndrome
Health checks for adults with Down's syndrome
The researchers reviewed the notes of 64 adults with Down’s Syndrome in the Newcastle and Gateshead area and found that nearly half had not seen a doctor in the previous 12 months and 33 per cent had not had a medical assessment in the past three years.

The patients were found to suffer from a variety of additional conditions including congenital heart disease, septal defects, congenital valvular disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study found that less than half had been immunised against influenza, pneumococcus and hepatitis B. Although 20 per cent were considered obese, only two were under review by a dietician, and more than half had no references to dietary advice or weight control measures in their patient notes nor had they received a thyroid assessment.

The study authors said there appeared to be a low level of medical involvement with patients with Down’s Syndrome and little surveillance for common complications that occur with the condition including coeliac disease, hearing loss, cardiac disease and Alzheimer’s.

GPs often cited the absence of evidence-based guidelines as a reason not to pursue specific tests and there was also confusion amongst healthcare professionals as to whose role it was to monitor such patients.

Lead author Dr Alex Henderson from the International Centre for Life in Newcaslte upon Tyne, said primary care was best positioned to provide the comprehensive and co-ordinating role required.

‘This study suggests there are potential benefits to structured health checks for adults with Down’s Syndrome,’ he added.

A study from the Netherlands in the same journal found people with intellectual disabilities paid 1.7 times more visits to the GP than those without intellectual disabilities.

- Br J Gen Pract 2006;57:50-55,64-66

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