Genetic results have implications not only for the individual, but also for their family members. Research on family communication of genetic results has primarily focused on families affected by adult-onset, dominant conditions as well as more common genetic conditions such as familial hypercholesterolemia, cardiomyopathies, and genetic hearing loss. This study therefore aimed to characterize genetic result communication in families with rare and undiagnosed conditions and identify factors that influence communication. One hundred and forty-two individuals who received a diagnosis from the Undiagnosed Diseases Network (UDN), a study focused on providing diagnoses to individuals with undiagnosed conditions, were eligible to complete a survey assessing genetic results communication. Survey items assessed if communication was discussed with healthcare providers, with whom participants communicated genetic testing, why they chose to communicate with these family members, and what information they communicated. All respondents (5 adult UDN participants, 38 parents/guardians of UDN participants, and 2 identifying as both) shared genetic results with at least one family member. Individuals who identified as both were considered exclusively adult participants for the purpose of these analyses. Adult participants and parents/guardians of participants reported high levels of understanding (96%), utility (96%), and comfort communicating genetic results (89%). Additionally, parents/guardians were more likely to disclose genetic results due to a general desire to share (60% of parents/guardians vs. 14% adult participants), while adult participants reported that they shared results to communicate risk to family members (86% of adult participants vs. 24% of parents/guardians). Many respondents did not recall discussing with a healthcare provider how (64%) or what (42%) to communicate about results. The results of this study provide insight into the practice of result communication by individuals with rare and previously undiagnosed conditions, which can ideally inform development of more effective counseling strategies and guidelines to aid family communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-447
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • communication
  • family
  • family communication
  • genetic counseling
  • genetic results
  • undiagnosed disease


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