A diagnosis of DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 deletion syndrome) is based primarily on a lab test that can detect the deletion in chromosome 22. Your doctor will likely order this test if your child has:
- A combination of medical problems or conditions suggesting 22q11.2 deletion syndrome
- A heart defect, because certain heart defects are commonly associated with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome
In some cases, a child may have a combination of conditions that suggest 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, but the lab test doesn't indicate a deletion in chromosome 22. Although these cases present a diagnostic challenge, the coordination of care to address all of the medical, developmental or behavioral problems will likely be similar.
Although there is no cure for DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 deletion syndrome), treatments can usually correct critical problems, such as a heart defect or cleft palate. Other health issues and developmental, mental health or behavioral problems can be addressed or monitored as needed.
Treatments and therapy for 22q11.2 deletion syndrome may include interventions for:
- Hypoparathyroidism. Hypoparathyroidism can usually be managed with calcium supplements and vitamin D supplements.
- Heart defects. Most heart defects associated with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome require surgery soon after birth to repair the heart and improve the supply of oxygen-rich blood.
- Limited thymus gland function. If your child has some thymic function, infections may be frequent, but not necessarily severe. These infections — usually colds and ear infections — are generally treated as they would be in any child. Most children with limited thymic function follow the normal schedule of vaccines. For most children with moderate thymus impairment, immune system function improves with age.
- Severe thymus dysfunction. If the impairment of the thymus is severe or there's no thymus, your child is at risk of a number of severe infections. Treatment requires a transplant of thymus tissue, specialized cells from bone marrow or specialized disease-fighting blood cells.
- Cleft palate. A cleft palate or other abnormalities of the palate and lip can usually be surgically repaired.
- Overall development. Your child will likely benefit from a range of therapies, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and developmental therapy. In the United States, early intervention programs providing these types of therapy are usually available through a state or county health department.
- Mental health care. Treatment may be recommended if your child is later diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, depression, or other mental health or behavioral disorders.
- Management of other conditions. These may include addressing feeding and growth issues, hearing or vision problems, and other medical conditions.
Health care team
Because 22q11.2 deletion syndrome can result in so many problems, several specialists will likely be involved in diagnosing specific conditions, recommending treatments and providing care. This team will evolve as your child's needs change. Specialists on your care team may include these professionals and others, as needed:
- Children's health specialist (pediatrician)
- Expert in inherited disorders (geneticist)
- Heart specialist (cardiologist)
- Immune system specialist (immunologist)
- Ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist
- Infectious disease specialist
- Hormone disorder specialist (endocrinologist)
- Surgeon who specializes in correcting such conditions as a cleft palate (oral and maxillofacial surgeon)
- Surgeon who specializes in correcting heart defects (cardiovascular surgeon)
- Occupational therapist to help develop practical, everyday skills
- Speech therapist to help improve verbal skills and articulation
- Developmental therapist to help develop age-appropriate behaviors, social skills and interpersonal skills
- Mental health professional, such as a pediatric psychiatrist or psychologist
Coping and support
Having a child with DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 deletion syndrome) is challenging. You must deal with numerous treatment issues, manage your own expectations and meet the needs of your child. Ask your health care team about organizations that provide educational materials, support groups and other resources for parents of children with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.
Preparing for your appointment
Your doctor may suspect DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 deletion syndrome) at birth, in which case diagnostic tests and treatment will likely begin before your child leaves the hospital.
Your child's health care provider will look for developmental problems at regular checkups and give you the opportunity to discuss any concerns with your doctor. It's important to take your child to all regularly scheduled well-baby visits and annual appointments.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
If your family doctor or pediatrician believes that your child shows signs of 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, basic question to ask include:
- What diagnostic tests will be needed?
- When will we know and how will we get the results of the tests?
- What specialists will you refer us to?
- What medical conditions related to this syndrome need to be addressed right now? What's our highest priority?
- How will you help me monitor my child's health and development?
- Can you suggest educational materials and local support services regarding this syndrome?
- What services are available for early childhood development?
What to expect from your doctor
Be prepared to answer questions the doctor may ask, such as:
- Does your baby have any problems feeding?
- Does your baby seem listless, weak or sick?
- Is your child reaching certain milestones in development, such as rolling over, pushing up, sitting up, crawling, walking or speaking?
- Do you observe any behaviors that concern you?