There is an ongoing need for improved quality educational material related to genetic topics for emergency room and general practice physicians, according to a study in the current Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

In a study in this month's Proceedings, researchers in New York found that inner-city pediatric patients with known or suspected genetic disorders are frequently treated in emergency departments.

"Because of the continued increase in clinical genetic knowledge, educational strategies need to be developed for clinicians to incorporate genetic advances into their daily patient diagnosis and management," says Philip F. Giampietro, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Pediatrics at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in Bronx, N.Y., and Weill Medical College of Cornell University. "Improved physician awareness may lead to earlier diagnosis in patients with previously undiagnosed genetic conditions and improved management of patients with known disorders."

The study looked at 15,258 pediatric visits to Lincoln Medical and Health Center in Bronx, N.Y., from October 1998 and February 1999. Of those, 2,839 visits were by patients with known or suspected genetic disorders. Most of these visits (97.2 percent) were associated with complaints or diagnoses that suggested the possibility of an underlying genetic disorder requiring further evaluation and diagnostic work-up.

Mechanisms such as Medicaid and community-based health centers help provide access to medical care for poor inner-city families. However, despite these resources, inner-city families often engage in an uncoordinated pattern of seeking primary care, with the emergency department serving as a focal point, the study's authors write.

Along with Dr. Giampietro, the study's authors include Pankaj Kumar, M.D., Jolly Radhakrishnan, M.D., and Maksud A. Chowdhary, M.D., of Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center.

Since the emergency department provides both primary and subspecialty care for many inner-city patients, it is important for emergency physicians and other primary care practitioners to be familiar with common genetic diseases, their acute presentations and complications, the study's authors write. Timely referral to a genetics clinic may facilitate diagnostic evaluation of suspected genetic disorders and case management strategies.

Mayo Clinic Proceedings is a peer-reviewed and indexed general internal medicine journal, published for 75 years by Mayo Foundation, with a circulation of 130,000 nationally and internationally.