Young Australian adults with NF1 have poor access to health care, high complication rates, and limited disease knowledge

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Abstract

Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a multisystem disease associated with a lifelong risk of debilitating and potentially life-limiting complications, however many adults with NF1 have no regular health surveillance. We interviewed and examined 17 young adults with NF1 between the ages of 25 and 33. Most had not been assessed for NF1-related complications within the previous 8 years, including patients with known serious vascular complications, for example, renal artery stenosis. Acute and/or chronic pain, particularly back and plexiform-related pain were common symptoms, and despite a significant impact on quality of life, was untreated in most instances. Symptom and examination-directed imaging revealed serious complications in 41% of the cohort. These included severe spinal cord compression (two cases), a highly SUV avid lesion suggestive of malignancy (one case), and a Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma in a patient without any previous NF1-related complications. Few study participants had a good understanding of NF1, its associated risks and complications, and many had not sought appropriate medical advice as questions or problems arose. NF1-related cognitive deficits in some participants, and the lack of a clear source of expert medical advice for adults with NF1 likely contributed to poor health surveillance and management in this population. Overall, these findings suggest that many Australian adults with NF1 are at risk of serious and life-threatening medical complications, but are not accessing and receiving adequate health care. Access to multidisciplinary adult clinics that specialize in NF1 may address many of the unmet health needs of young adults with NF1. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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