Perceptions of uncertainties about carrier results identified by exome sequencing in a randomized controlled trial.

Document Type


Publication Date



Center for Outcomes and Research, Maine Medical Center Research Institute

Journal Title

Transl Behav Med

MeSH Headings

Exome, Whole Exome Sequencing, Uncertainty


How individuals perceive uncertainties in sequencing results may affect their clinical utility. The purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of uncertainties in carrier results and how they relate to psychological well-being and health behavior. Post-reproductive adults (N = 462) were randomized to receive carrier results from sequencing through either a web platform or a genetic counselor. On average, participants received two results. Group differences in affective, evaluative, and clinical uncertainties were assessed from baseline to 1 and 6 months; associations with test-specific distress and communication of results were assessed at 6 months. Reductions in affective uncertainty (∆x̅ = 0.78, 95% CI: 0.53, 1.02) and evaluative uncertainty (∆x̅ = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.51, 0.87) followed receipt of results regardless of randomization arm at 1 month. Participants in the web platform arm reported greater clinical uncertainty than those in the genetic counselor arm at 1 and 6 months; this was corroborated by the 1,230 questions asked of the genetic counselor and residual questions reported by those randomized to the web platform. Evaluative uncertainty was associated with a lower likelihood of communicating results to health care providers. Clinical uncertainty was associated with a lower likelihood of communicating results to children. Learning one's carrier results may reduce perceptions of uncertainties, though web-based return may lead to less reduction in clinical uncertainty in the short term. These findings warrant reinforcement of clinical implications to minimize residual questions and promote appropriate health behavior (communicating results to at-risk relatives in the case of carrier results), especially when testing alternative delivery models.