Cardiovascular Genetics

More than 50 types of heart disease are caused by a genetic change—gene mutations that passed down from parent to child.

These conditions are the No. 1 cause of sudden natural death in young people. Early diagnosis is crucial, and so is working with a team of experts to manage the condition over your lifetime.

The University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center’s cardiovascular genetics program is the only comprehensive program in the state. It brings together a team with expertise across all types of heart and vascular care.

In addition to caring for you, we can work to identify your family members of all ages who might be at risk. We’ll make recommendations to prevent or minimize future health problems for them, too.

Care for inherited heart disease is lifesaving care for your whole family.

Iowa’s only comprehensive center for cardiovascular genetics

Inherited heart disease can be a challenge to diagnose, so you need an experienced team. Our program brings together highly trained experts from a range of fields to pinpoint your diagnosis and create your personalized treatment plan.

Your plan will include preventive care and leading-edge treatment, with the goal of slowing down the progression of your disease.

Because the UI Heart and Vascular Center is part of an academic medical center, many of our specialists are also researchers. They have helped to create many of today’s treatment breakthroughs, including the newest drug for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. And the team is always investigating new treatments. That means you could be eligible to participate in a clinical trial of new therapies.

Expert genetic testing and counseling for your whole family

If one of your parents has a genetic change (also called a mutation or pathogenic variant) for inherited heart or vascular disease, in most cases you will have a 50-50 chance of inheriting it. And if you have the genetic change, there’s a 50-50 chance you could pass it on to each of your children.

A simple blood test can check for the genetic change. It’s what comes after the test that’s more complex.

Our genetic counselors talk with you before and after your test to explain the process, the results, and the implications. How will you use the information to manage your health? Should your children be tested? How will you share the information with your family?

We walk you through every step of the decision-making process.

Now we have a ‘why.’ Before, we didn’t know why members of our family had heart disease or why members of our family who seemed completely normal were suddenly falling over dead.

What to expect

When you choose the UI Heart and Vascular Center for cardiovascular genetics, our team guides you through the process from start to finish.

Your first appointment

  • If you don’t live near UI Hospitals & Clinics, we’ll work to get all of your appointments and tests scheduled over one or two days.
  • Our nurse manager will coordinate your schedule and will be your point of contact.
  • Our providers will come to see you in our outpatient clinic.  

Testing

  • We start by taking your medical and family history to determine what tests you need.
  • You’ll meet with a genetic cardiologist, a cardiovascular genetic nurse practitioner, and a genetic counselor to talk about the testing plan.
  • Your unique series of tests might include blood tests, imaging, cardiac stress testing, and heart rate monitoring.

Treatment plan

  • When we have your test results, your team will meet to create your personalized treatment plan.
  • Your genetic cardiologist, cardiovascular genetic nurse practitioner, and genetic counselor will talk with you about your diagnosis, your plan, and any questions you have.
  • If required, you will meet with other members of our team (cardiac electrophysiologist, interventional cardiologist, cardiac surgeon, sleep medicine physician, or psychiatrist).
  • If you’ll be returning home for ongoing care, your team will share your treatment plan with your primary care provider or cardiologist and will always be available to answer questions.
  • If testing shows that your child shares your genetic mutation, we can coordinate their care with pediatric cardiologists at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital or with your hometown pediatrician.

Cardiovascular genetics tests and treatments

Cardiovascular genetics conditions treated

Should your family be tested?

If anyone in your family is diagnosed with an inherited heart disease, the whole family should have a cardiovascular genetic evaluation.

Care Team

Nurse Manager, Internal Medicine

  • Becky Gutmann