Treatments and Services

Cardiac Genetics Program

Most heart defects in children have no known genetic cause. However, genetics is a rapidly changing field, and doctors are getting more and more clues about the role of genetics in the development of the heart.

What services does Seattle Children’s Cardiac Genetics Program offer?

Our Cardiac Genetics Program offers consultation, evaluation and counseling before and after your child is born. A medical genetic specialist and a genetic counselor will talk with you about your risk of having a child with a heart defect or genetic condition related to a heart defect. This information may be helpful in deciding about any future pregnancies and your healthcare in the future.

In many cases, assessing your risk is all that’s needed. For instance, the risk of having a baby with a heart defect is 1%, or 1 in 100 children. If you or your child has a heart defect or genetic condition related to a heart defect, the risk of having another child born with a heart defect increases. Certain heart defects have a much higher risk of being passed on, such as:

Depending on the risk factors, an echocardiogram may be done on one or more family members. Blood tests may be performed to look at genetic markers in the chromosomes. Often, we will involve other heart specialists or consultants.

Do I need a referral?

You may make an appointment with the Cardiac Genetics Program at Seattle Children’s on your own or seek a referral from your primary care doctor. Call 206-987-2015.

What's special about the experience at Seattle Children's?

Genetics is one of the fastest-changing specialties in medicine. Our doctors are on top of the latest research through our partnership with the University of Washington Medical School, so you receive the most up-to-date information on risk factors and tests.

Who's on the team?

The Cardiac Genetics Program team includes Drs. Mark LewinIan Glass and Aaron Olson, genetic nurse practitioner Dawn Earl and genetic counselor Kathy Shih.

Together with other pediatric specialists and researchers at Seattle Children’s and the University of Washington, the team continues to find out how genetics contribute to heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) issues. We’re also involved with a multicenter study through the Pediatric Heart Network. The study compares the effectiveness of two medicines in slowing down the growth of the part of the aorta closest to the heart (aortic root) in children with Marfan syndrome.

Learn More

Read more about how genetic counseling offers patients and families helpful information and guidance about birth defects and genetic conditions. Read Briella's story.

Contact Us

Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2015 for a referral, a second opinion or more information.