X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is caused by gene variants in the ABCD1
gene, resulting in a varied clinical spectrum. Males with ALD present with symptoms ranging from isolated adrenal insufficiency and slowly progressive myelopathy to severe cerebral demyelination. Females who are heterozygous for ALD typically develop milder symptoms by late adulthood. Treatment for adrenal insufficiency associated with ALD exists in the form of cortisol, and cerebral ALD may be treated with stem cell transplantation. Currently, there is no treatment for myelopathy. Since 2013, at least 14 states have added ALD to their newborn screening (NBS) panel, including California in 2016. We examined the impact of a positive NBS result for ALD on families in California. Qualitative interviews were conducted with mothers of 10 children who were identified via NBS for ALD. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using thematic analysis by two coders. Mothers felt strongly that ALD should be included on California’s NBS panel; however, many expressed concerns over their experience. Themes included stress at initial phone call, difficulty living with uncertainty, concerns regarding mental health support, and desire for more information on disease progression, treatments and clinical trials. Mothers exhibited diverse coping strategies, including relying on faith, information seeking, and maintaining hope. Mothers’ recommendations for healthcare providers included: educating providers making the initial phone call, providing patient-friendly resources, offering information about ongoing research, and streamlining care coordination. Advice for parents of children with ALD focused on staying hopeful and appreciating the time they have with their children. As more states add ALD to their NBS panel, it is important to improve the current model to promote family resiliency and autonomy.
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