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Disease Profile

Kartagener syndrome

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable


Other names (AKA)

Dextrocardia bronchiectasis and sinusitis; Siewert syndrome; Immotile cilia syndrome, Kartagener type;


Congenital and Genetic Diseases; Lung Diseases; Male Reproductive Diseases


Kartagener syndrome is a type of primary ciliary dyskinesia that is also characterized by situs inversus totalis (mirror-image reversal of internal organs). The signs and symptoms vary but may include neonatal respiratory distress; frequent lung, sinus and middle ear infections beginning in early childhood; and infertility.[1][2][3] It can be cause by changes (mutations) in many different genes that are inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. Although scientists have identified many of the genes associated with Kartagener syndrome, the genetic cause of some cases is unknown.[4][2] There is no cure for Kartagener syndrome. Treatment varies based on the signs and symptoms present in each person but may include airway clearance therapy and antibiotics.[1][2][3]


Kartagener syndrome is characterized by primary ciliary dyskinesia and situs inversus totalis. In people affected by situs inversus totalis, the internal organs including the heart, liver, spleen and intestine are on the opposite side of the body. Although the internal organs are abnormally placed, this condition typically does not cause any health problems.[1][2]

The signs and symptoms of primary ciliary dyskinesia vary, but may include:[1][2][3]


Kartagener syndrome can be caused by changes (mutations) in many different genes. These genes encode proteins that are important to the structure and function of cilia. Cilia are tiny, hair-like structures that are found on the surface of cells in various parts of the body such as the lining of the airway, the reproductive system, and other organs. The coordinated movement of cilia in wave-like motions is important to the normal functioning of certain organs and tissues throughout the body and ensures the proper placement of organs in the developing embryo. Mutations in these genes cause the cilia to be either immotile (unable to move) or dysmotile (they move incorrectly), which leads to the many signs and symptoms of Kartagener syndrome.[1][4][3]

Scientists have identified several different genes that are associated with Kartagener syndrome; however, the genetic cause is unknown in some cases.[1][4][3]


Kartagener syndrome is typically suspected based on the presence of characteristic signs and symptoms. A diagnosis can be confirmed by examining a small sample of tissue (biopsy) from an area of the body known to have cilia such as the sinus cavities or the airway. Abnormalities in the structure of cilia, as seen in people affected by Kartagener syndrome, can be observed under a special microscope (called an electron microscope). If the disease-causing change (mutation) is known, genetic testing can also be used to confirm the diagnosis.[1][2][3]

Testing Resources

  • The Genetic Testing Registry (GTR) provides information about the genetic tests for this condition. The intended audience for the GTR is health care providers and researchers. Patients and consumers with specific questions about a genetic test should contact a health care provider or a genetics professional.


    There is currently no cure for Kartagener syndrome. Treatment varies based on the signs and symptoms present in each person. Airway clearance therapy, similar to that used in cystic fibrosis, can loosen thick, sticky mucus so it can be cleared away. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat respiratory, sinus, and middle ear infections and may be given on a long-term basis in people with chronic or frequent infections. Surgery to insert ear tubes may be recommended in children with chronic ear infections that are resistant to antibiotics. In people with severe lung disease, lung transplantation may be an option.[1][2][3]

    For more information on the treatment and management of Kartagener syndrome, please click here.


    Support and advocacy groups can help you connect with other patients and families, and they can provide valuable services. Many develop patient-centered information and are the driving force behind research for better treatments and possible cures. They can direct you to research, resources, and services. Many organizations also have experts who serve as medical advisors or provide lists of doctors/clinics. Visit the group’s website or contact them to learn about the services they offer. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement by GARD.

    Organizations Supporting this Disease

      Learn more

      These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

      Where to Start

      • Genetics Home Reference (GHR) contains information on Kartagener syndrome. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
      • The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has a report for patients and families about this condition. NORD is a patient advocacy organization for individuals with rare diseases and the organizations that serve them.

        In-Depth Information

        • GeneReviews provides current, expert-authored, peer-reviewed, full-text articles describing the application of genetic testing to the diagnosis, management, and genetic counseling of patients with specific inherited conditions.
        • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
        • The Monarch Initiative brings together data about this condition from humans and other species to help physicians and biomedical researchers. Monarch’s tools are designed to make it easier to compare the signs and symptoms (phenotypes) of different diseases and discover common features. This initiative is a collaboration between several academic institutions across the world and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Visit the website to explore the biology of this condition.
        • Orphanet is a European reference portal for information on rare diseases and orphan drugs. Access to this database is free of charge.
        • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Kartagener syndrome. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


          1. Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia. National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Updated 2015; https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/primary-ciliary-dyskinesia/.
          2. Maimoona A Zariwala, PhD, FACMG, Michael R Knowles, MD, and Margaret W Leigh, MD. Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia. GeneReviews. February 2013; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1122/.
          3. John P Bent lll, MD. Kartagener Syndrome. Medscape Reference. February 2014; https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/299299-overview.
          4. Primary ciliary dyskinesia. Genetics Home Reference. April 2014; https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/primary-ciliary-dyskinesia.
          5. Primary ciliary dyskinesia. Orphanet. May 2014; https://www.orpha.net/consor/cgi-bin/OC_Exp.php?lng=en&Expert=244.

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