The use of medical care and the prevalence of serious illness in an adult Prader-Willi syndrome cohort

Margje Sinnema*, Marian A. Maaskant, Henny M. J. van Schrojenstein Lantman-de Valk, Harm Boer, Leopold M. G. Curfs, Constance T. R. M. Schrander-Stumpel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: Adults with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) have an increased occurrence of several medical conditions. We report on the consequences of high morbidity rates such as prevalence rate of hospital admissions, medication use and surgery in a Dutch cohort of adults with PWS. Special attention is paid to causes and symptoms of serious illness. Method: Participants were contacted via the Dutch Prader-Willi Parent Association and through physicians specializing in persons with ID. The persons with PWS and their main caregivers were visited at home. Information was collected through semi-structured interviews on 102 adults with PWS. Results: The need for medical care in the neonatal period is associated with hypotonia and feeding problems. Hospital admissions for respiratory tract infections are frequent. During childhood most hospital admissions were due to PWS syndrome specific surgery. During adolescence hospital admissions occurred for scoliosis surgery and endocrine evaluations. At adult age, hospitalization was associated with inguinal hernia surgery, diabetes mellitus, psychosis, erysipelas, water and drug intoxications. In the older group, respiratory infections were again the main reason for hospital admissions. Frequently used medications at adult age included psychotropics, laxatives, anti-diabetics and dermatologic preparations. Abnormal drinking patterns, problems with anesthesia, decreased ability to vomit, abnormal pain awareness and unpredictable fever responses were frequent and often lead to delayed diagnoses of serious conditions. Discussion: People with PWS are frequent users of medical-care. Reasons for hospitalization and medication use are age specific. Knowledge on the different presentation of symptoms in people with PWS is needed. In case of unexplained illness, disturbances of consciousness and behavioral changes in people with PWS, an infection should be ruled out in the first place. Information from this study may help in preventing conditions and recognizing conditions in an early stage. Adequate preventive management and treatment of PWS related morbidity, could reduce medical care use in the long term and could improve quality adjusted life years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-403
JournalEuropean Journal of Medical Genetics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Prader-Willi
  • Medical care
  • Serious illness


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