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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 84:1156-1160 doi:10.1136/jnnp-2012-304636
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Research paper

Prevalence of adult Huntington's disease in the UK based on diagnoses recorded in general practice records

Open Access
  1. Liam Smeeth1
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA
  3. 3Hereditary Disease Foundation, New York, New York, USA
  4. 4University College London, Institute of Neurology, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Michael D Rawlins, Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK; michael.rawlins{at}nice.org.uk
  • Received 30 November 2012
  • Revised 17 February 2013
  • Accepted 20 February 2013
  • Published Online First 12 March 2013

Abstract

Background and purpose The prevalence of Huntington's disease (HD) in the UK is uncertain. Recently, it has been suggested that the prevalence may be substantially greater than previously reported. This study was undertaken to estimate the overall UK prevalence in adults diagnosed with HD, using data from primary care.

Methods The electronic medical records of patients aged 21 years or more, with recorded diagnoses of HD, were retrieved from the UK's General Practice Research Database. Prevalence was estimated from the number of persons with recorded diagnoses of HD, on 1 July each year, between 1990 and 2010. This number was divided by the total number of persons registered with participating general practices on that same date. These data were also used to estimate both age specific prevalence and prevalence in various regions of the UK.

Results A total of 1136 patients diagnosed with HD, aged 21 years or more, were identified from the database. The estimated prevalence (expressed per 100 000 population) rose from 5.4 (95% CI 3.8 to 7.5) in 1990 to 12.3 (95% CI 11.2 to 13.5) in 2010. Although an increased prevalence was observed within every age group, the most dramatic was in older patients. Age specific prevalence was highest in the 51–60 year age range (15.8 95% CI 9.0 to 22.3). The prevalence of adult HD was lowest in the London region (5.4 (95% CI 3.0 to 8.9)) and highest in the North East of England (18.3 (95% CI 8.6 to 34.6)) and Scotland (16.1 (95% CI 10.8 to 22.9)).

Conclusions The prevalence of diagnosed HD is clearly substantially higher in the UK than suggested from previous studies. By extrapolation to the UK as a whole, it is estimated that there are more than 5700 people, aged 21 years or more, with HD. There has also been a surprising doubling of the HD population between 1990 and 2010. Many factors may have caused this increase, including more accurate diagnoses, better and more available therapies and an improved life expectancy, even with HD. There also appears to be a greater willingness to register a diagnosis of HD in patients’ electronic medical records. Such a high prevalence of HD requires more ingenuity and responsiveness in its care. How to appropriately care for, and respond to, so many individuals and families coping with the exigencies of HD demands our greatest resolve and imagination.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Open Access

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