Comprehensive family history and targeted family history
Comprehensive vs. targeted family history
Collection of a comprehensive family history is ideal, though often not practical. Healthcare providers should determine the level of detailed information to collect according to each patient and indication.
Comprehensive family history
In a general healthcare setting, providers are encouraged to collect family histories by eliciting general health information about the relatives represented in a patient’s medical family history. Examples of conditions to ask about are:
- Major medical concerns
- Chronic medical conditions (something for which medication or therapy is required, for example)
- Hospitalizations or major surgeries
- Birth defects
- Intellectual disability (mental retardation, learning disabilities, or developmental delay)
Targeted family history
A targeted family history includes information about health problems in a patient’s relatives that are related to the specific condition of concern. This type of history is appropriate in a specialized clinical setting or when evaluating a patient for specific concerns. When evaluating a patient for a specific syndrome, for example, it is beneficial to ask about the presence in relatives of different features associated with that syndrome. A targeted family history is also appropriate if the general family history reveals a possible inherited condition.
Refer to chapter four in The Practical Guide to the Genetic Family History (Bennett, R.L., 2010, New York: Wiley-Liss) for examples of targeted family history information one might gather in cases of specific medical findings.