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Medical Professionals

Physicians & Genetic Counselors

CHARGE syndrome is an extremely complex and variable syndrome most often caused by mutations in the CHD7 gene on chromosome 8. Diagnosis relies on key clinical features as well as DNA information. The range of intellectual ability in CHARGE covers the entire spectrum, with potential routinely underestimated.

The combination of complex (often life-threatening) medical issues and sensory deficits (especially impaired hearing, vision, and balance) significantly alters and delays both motor development and language acquisition. Appropriate management requires accurate diagnosis, management of medical issues, and accurate assessment and management of sensory issues. Here we provide a diagnostic testing algorithm, information on sensory deficits (deafblindness), medical management guidelines, and resources you can give to families and educators.

CHARGE Syndrome Diagnostic Testing

Diagnosis of CHARGE can be challenging because:

  • Features overlap with many other syndromes (see differential diagnosis, below)
  • Every feature of CHARGE can vary from severe to absent
  • Each affected individual has a unique set of features
  • 10-20% of individuals with CHARGE do not have an identifiable pathogenic CHD7 variant

CHARGE is primarily a clinical diagnosis, with overlapping criteria proposed by Blake (1998), Verloes (2005) (CHARGE Factsheet 3 Clinical Diagnosis and features), and Hale (2016).

CHARGE syndrome should be considered in anyone with multiple anomalies which include at least one of:

CHARGE Syndrome Checklist: Health Supervision Across the Lifespan

A comprehensive approach to health screening and management for individuals with CHARGE syndrome is
essential. This checklist was developed by Carrie Lee Trider, Angela Arra-Robar, Kim Blake, and Conny van Ravenswaiij. It is organized by body system and age to guide the healthcare provider in their approach to care. The checklist was evaluated using a modified Delphi method to develop a final consensus. The goal of the checklist is that the recommendations will promote improvements in care by preventing missed diagnoses, allowing for anticipatory counseling, and facilitating early referral for interventions and treatments.

Download the CHARGE Syndrome Checklist

Read More About CHD7 Analysis

Guidelines for CHD7 Analysis in patients suspected to have CHARGE syndrome (click to enlarge)

CHD7 Analysis Guideline

CGH comparative genomic hybridization (aka CMA); MLPA, multiplex ligation dependent probe amplification (del/dup). Figure from CHD7 mutations and CHARGE syndrome: the clinical implications of an expanding phenotype. Bergman JE, Janssen N, Hoefsloot LH, Jongmans MC, Hofstra RM, van Ravenswaaij-Arts CM. J Med Genet. 2011 May;48(5):334-42.

Read More About Letter of Medical Necessity

Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN)

Many insurance companies require a letter of medical necessity before considering coverage of genetic testing. For information relevant to CHD7 testing specifics and utility, see: Clinical utility gene card for: CHARGE syndrome – update 2015. van Ravenswaaij-Arts CM, Blake K, Hoefsloot L, Verloes A. Eur J Hum Genet. 2015 Nov;23(11).

Read More About Differential Diagnosis

Differential Diagnosis:  What else looks like CHARGE?

CHARGE is a complex, multiple anomaly syndrome. Diagnosis is complicated by the overlap with other syndromes and the fact that not all individuals with CHARGE have identifiable pathogenic CHD7 variants. Below are the conditions with the most overlap with CHARGE syndrome.

  • 22q deletion syndrome (aka VCFS, DiGeorge): can have many of the same medical features (see figure below).
    – Dysmorphology (face, hands and ears) is usually different.
    – Testing: Microarray (aka array CGH, CMA, aCGH) or FISH for del22q11.2; TBX1 gene testing
  • Kabuki syndrome: can have many of the same medical and behavioral features.
    – Dysmorphology is different (eyes, ears, fingertips) and puberty is early rather than late in Kabuki syndrome.
    – Testing: Two Kabuki genes have been identified: KMT2D (aka MLL2) and KDM6A
  • VATER/VACTERL association (Vertebral, Anal atresia, Cardiac, Tracheo-Esophageal fistula, Renal, and Limb) can result in similar birth defects. No particular dysmorphology, no specific genetic etiology.
  • Chromosome abnormalities. Many chromosome abnormalities can have features that overlap with CHARGE syndrome.
    – Testing: Microarray and karyotype
  • Retinoic embryopathy: exposure to Accutane during pregnancy can produce similar ears and heart defects. Other features are different
  • Changes in the PAX2 gene can cause colobomas, hearing loss and rare kidney problems
  • Many other single gene conditions have overlapping features

Figure: Frequency of the most common clinical features seen in patients with a 22q11.2 deletion and patients with a CHD7 mutation (click to enlarge)

clinical overlap features

Read More About Sensory Deficit/Deafblindness

Sensory Deficit/Deafblindness

CHARGE syndrome is the most frequent genetic cause of combined hearing and vision loss. Deafblind is an educational term referring to individuals with combined hearing and vision loss. The majority of children who are deafblind also have additional physical, medical and/or cognitive problems. Most children with CHARGE will be considered deafblind even though most of them retain some usable hearing and/or vision. Children are considered to be deafblind (and eligible for deafblind services) when their combined hearing and vision loss causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they require significant and unique adaptations in their educational programs. Every state has a Deaf-Blind Project to provide services from birth to 21.

The Management Manual for Parents contains many sections pertaining to sensory deficits in children with CHARGE. 

See here for specific links: Sensory Deficits 

Read More About Resources for Medical Management

Resources for Medical Management

Possible BREATHING and ANESTHESIA issues to note if CHARGE is a possibility:

  • Incoordination of suck and swallow are common: there is risk of aspiration when anything is given by mouth
  • Weak tracheal cartilage is common: trachea may collapse easily
  • Many individuals have complications with anesthesia, especially difficulty with breathing when coming out of anesthesia. See: Postoperative airway events of individuals with CHARGE syndrome. Blake K, et al. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2009 Feb;73(2):219-26. PMID: 19058860

Management of individuals with CHARGE includes both medical and developmental/educational management.  Here are some resources to help with management of patients with CHARGE syndrome.

  • Updated in 2021, and edited by Timothy Hartshorne, Ph.D, Margaret Hefner, MS, and Kim Blake, MD, this book describes the sensory, physical, communicative, and behavioral findings in CHARGE. Authors include experts in the field, including a number from the CHARGE Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical. New in this second edition: A chapter on educational issues. All royalties from this book benefit the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation. To order a copy, please visit http://www.pluralpublishing.com/publication_cs2.htm 
Read More About Resources To Give To Families

Resources To Give To Families

New families may want a little information or a lot.  If you provide them with a packet of information, they can look at it when they are ready.  We recommend that every new family be given the following information.


Foundation Brochure


The CHARGE Syndrome Foundation brochure provides a quick explanation of CHARGE syndrome and information about what the Foundation offers. Many families find this helpful in explaining CHARGE to family members or professionals who are unfamiliar with CHARGE.






The New Parent Packet is designed for families who have a newly-diagnosed son or daughter with CHARGE and includes information about the Foundation, facts about CHARGE syndrome and some family stories.






The Foundation has a dedicated Director of Outreach who works directly with families. Sheri can answer your questions and direct you to available resources in your area.




State Deafblind Projects iconSince nearly all individuals with CHARGE have some degree of both hearing and vision loss, all families should be referred to specialists in deafblindness to assist with developmental and educational issues. In the US, each state has a federally funded Deafblind Project to assist families with children from birth through age 21. Other countries have parallel organizations.




There is a very active CHARGE Syndrome Foundation facebookFacebook group – families can join by visiting https://www.facebook.com/groups/chargesyndrome/