Return of non-ACMG recommended incidental genetic findings to pediatric patients: considerations and opportunities from experiences in genomic sequencing

Kevin M. Bowling, Michelle L. Thompson, Melissa A. Kelly, Sarah Scollon, Anne M. Slavotinek, Bradford C. Powell, Brian M. Kirmse, Laura G. Hendon, Kyle B. Brothers, Bruce R. Korf, Gregory M. Cooper, John M. Greally, Anna C.E. Hurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The uptake of exome/genome sequencing has introduced unexpected testing results (incidental findings) that have become a major challenge for both testing laboratories and providers. While the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics has outlined guidelines for laboratory management of clinically actionable secondary findings, debate remains as to whether incidental findings should be returned to patients, especially those representing pediatric populations. Methods: The Sequencing Analysis and Diagnostic Yield working group in the Clinical Sequencing Evidence-Generating Research Consortium has collected a cohort of pediatric patients found to harbor a genomic sequencing-identified non-ACMG-recommended incidental finding. The incidental variants were not thought to be associated with the indication for testing and were disclosed to patients and families. Results: In total, 23 "non-ACMG-recommended incidental findings were identified in 21 pediatric patients included in the study. These findings span four different research studies/laboratories and demonstrate differences in incidental finding return rate across study sites. We summarize specific cases to highlight core considerations that surround identification and return of incidental findings (uncertainty of disease onset, disease severity, age of onset, clinical actionability, and personal utility), and suggest that interpretation of incidental findings in pediatric patients can be difficult given evolving phenotypes. Furthermore, return of incidental findings can benefit patients and providers, but do present challenges. Conclusions: While there may be considerable benefit to return of incidental genetic findings, these findings can be burdensome to providers and present risk to patients. It is important that laboratories conducting genomic testing establish internal guidelines in anticipation of detection. Moreover, cross-laboratory guidelines may aid in reducing the potential for policy heterogeneity across laboratories as it relates to incidental finding detection and return. However, future discussion is required to determine whether cohesive guidelines or policy statements are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number131
JournalGenome Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Actionability
  • Age of onset
  • Disease severity
  • Genetic testing
  • Genomics
  • Incidental findings
  • Pediatrics
  • Penetrance
  • Personal utility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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