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8110 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church, VA 22042

Our Team

Our multidisciplinary Cardiovascular Genomics team involves highly specialized cardiovascular physician specialists, certified and licensed genetic counselors and a cardiovascular geneticist. This team can improve your care and treatment options by offering expertise in diagnosing and managing your cardiovascular disease.

Meet Our Team

What is cardiovascular genetics?

Genetics refers to the study of genes and the heredity of traits. Some cardiovascular conditions are associated with single genes and have a clear inheritance pattern running through families. Genetic testing for these groups of conditions may guide treatment and management for you and identify family members who may have an up to 50% chance of having the same genetic cardiovascular condition.

Here at Inova, we believe the next frontier in combating cardiovascular disease involves integrating a precise approach to cardiovascular diagnostics with therapeutics that relies on an individual's genes.

Am I predisposed to cardiovascular disease?

Everyone is at risk for cardiovascular disease. However, that risk can be lessened by a combination of diet, lifestyle, physical fitness, environmental exposures (e.g., tobacco or alcohol), and medical diagnoses (e.g., high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity), and genes. In some individuals, these genes may play a significant role in their risk for cardiovascular disease and, in others, may contribute only a small amount.

We can work with you to help your family understand their risk for cardiovascular disease in the future. Genetics may involve conditions you are born with, but it also encompasses understanding those genes' interaction with your environment, different therapeutics, and lifestyle modifications. Our goal is to improve your cardiovascular health in a manner catered precisely to you as an individual.

For more information about our Cardiovascular Genomics Program or to schedule an in-person or virtual appointment, please contact us.

Conditions We Treat

What heart conditions may benefit from genetic testing?

Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis is a group of conditions characterized by abnormal proteins building up in the heart and other organs. Cardiac amyloidosis can cause cardiac function to deteriorate and possibly fail as the heart becomes stiffer. There are several recognized forms of amyloidosis. Genetic changes in the transthyretin (TTR) gene can cause familial transthyretin amyloidosis, which can be inherited. Many therapies are approved for hereditary amyloidosis. Inova Cardiovascular Genomics Center can assist in genetic confirmation of suspect amyloidosis and help develop a therapeutic management strategy for your family.

Aortopathy (aortic disease)

Aortopathy is any disease affecting the aorta, the main artery in the body within the chest, including aortic enlargement, aneurysms, and dissection/tearing. Twenty percent of aortopathies are caused by inherited, problematic genes that cause weakening in the aortic wall that can force the artery to expand and tear. Some conditions that predispose people to aortopathy include:

  • Aneurysms
  • Loeys-Dietz
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Vascular Ehlers-Danlos

People with immediate family members with aortopathy should undergo genetic testing for the predisposing gene for early diagnosis, treatment, and routine monitoring.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC)

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), also called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), is a heart muscle disease. Fatty, fibrous tissue replaces normal heart muscle, interrupting normal electrical signals in the heart and potentially causing irregular and possible life-threatening heart rhythms. As a result, the heart becomes weaker over time, leading to heart failure.

Brugada Syndrome

Brugada syndrome is a hereditary cardiac condition characterized by ventricular arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats of the lower chambers. This arrhythmia can cause fainting, palpitations, and sudden death. Brugada syndrome can run through families, with the children of a person with Brugada syndrome having a 50/50 chance of inheriting the same condition.

Learn more about Brugada syndrome

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) refers to an enlarged heart size that compromises the heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body leading to dyspnea and fatigue. Patients can develop fluid retention that is termed heart failure. DCM is the most common form of cardiomyopathy and can have several causes. In younger patients and families with multiple individuals with DCM, we can detect a genetic change that can be passed down through generations in approximately 40% of patients. More than 40 genes have been associated with familial dilated cardiomyopathy. A genetic testing panel with many genes or a smaller test may be useful for you.

learn more about Dilated (nonischemic) Cardiomyopathy

Familial Hypercholesterolemia

Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic condition characterized by very high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is produced in the body and obtained from foods. While the body needs this substance, too much cholesterol increases a person's risk of developing coronary artery disease. Inherited forms of hypercholesterolemia lead to coronary artery disease (CAD) at earlier-than-normal ages. Three different genes are known to cause 60-80% of cases of familial hypercholesterolemia.

Familial Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm and Dissection

Around 20 percent of people with thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection (TAAD) are genetically predisposed to it, meaning it runs in the family. Inova offers the necessary genetic testing to diagnose and treat this condition.

Thoracic aortic aneurysms are often asymptomatic enlargements of the aorta (the artery that takes blood away from the heart) in the thoracic cavity (chest area). Without surgical repair, they can lead to a sudden tear/dissection of the inner wall of the aorta, allowing blood to flow between the aorta’s inner and outer walls. Subsequently, thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections increase the risk of aortic rupture, which can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

First-degree relatives of individuals known to have thoracic aortic aneurysms should undergo screening for Familial Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm and Dissection, as early detection and treatment are crucial.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is an inherited disease of the heart muscle that affects an estimated 1 in 500 people worldwide. It is the most common genetic heart disease in the United States. The most consistent feature in HCM is thickening of the left ventricle, leading to obstruction of blood flow to the rest of the body. HCM also involves disarray or disorganization of the heart muscle cells, which can lead to an irregular heart rhythm (called arrhythmias) and sudden cardiac death. HCM can affect men and women of all ages, and symptoms can appear in childhood or adulthood. Mutations in one of several genes can cause HCM, and there is often variability in presentation amongst family members.

Learn more about Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Loeys-Dietz Syndrome

Loeys-Dietz Syndrome is a genetic disorder involving connective tissue. Connective tissue provides strength and flexibility to structures such as bones, muscles, and blood vessels. Abnormalities in the vasculature can lead to aortic dissection without appropriate medical and surgical therapy. There are four types of Loeys-Dietz syndrome, which are distinguished by their different genetic causes. Regardless of the type, signs and symptoms of Loeys-Dietz syndrome can become apparent anytime in childhood or adulthood, and the severity is variable. Common signs include wide-set eyes, aortic or arterial aneurysm or dissection, and various skeletal, skin and digestive features.

Learn more about Loeys Dietz syndrome:

Long QT Syndrome (LQTS)

Long QT syndrome (LQTS) is a disease that you can inherit or that can be acquired. It affects the bottom pumping chambers of the heart (ventricles) by impacting the highly coordinated ion channels regulating the flow of electricity needed to generate normal heartbeats. In LQTS, a problem in the ion channels leads to electrical instability, causing a very rapid and dangerous heart rhythm that can lead to fainting or sudden death. The name long QT stems from the abnormal wavelength read on the electrocardiogram (ECG) machine used to evaluate an individual's heartbeat. While cardiac events may occur from infancy through middle age, they are most common from the preteen years through the 20s. There are different types of LQTS caused by mutations in different genes.

Learn more about Long QT Syndrome

Marfan Syndrome

Marfan syndrome is a connective tissue disorder that affects approximately 1 in every 5,000 people worldwide. Marfan syndrome affects multiple parts of the body, but the cardiac complications are typically the most serious. People with this condition often have mitral valve prolapse, arrhythmia, dilation of the aorta, and are at high risk for aortic dissection without appropriate medical or surgical therapy. Genetic changes in the FBN1 gene cause Marfan syndrome, which can be inherited from parent to child.

Learn more about Marfan syndrome

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when an acute cardiac event causes a person to die within minutes. Sometimes, a specific cause is identified and other times, the death remains unexplained and unrecognized as a cardiac arrest. There are several hereditary cardiac conditions that can cause sudden cardiac arrest, including cardiomyopathies or arrhythmias. Families with young or multiple individuals who had a sudden unexplained death or sudden cardiac may benefit from genetic testing to predict other relative's risk of sudden cardiac arrest.