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Sequential triage in the first trimester may enhance advanced ultrasound scanning in population screening for trisomy 21

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To design a trisomy 21 screening protocol for sequential triage in the first trimester, and to evaluate whether it reduces the need for advanced ultrasound scanning to such an extent that this could be dealt with by a limited number of well‐trained sonographers only.


Screening results of 31 trisomy 21 affected pregnancies and 16 096 unaffected pregnancies from the first trimester screening program of Algemeen Medisch Laboratorium in Antwerp, Belgium, were used to define high‐risk, intermediate‐risk and low‐risk groups. A serum screening result (age, pregnancy‐associated plasma protein‐A (PAPP‐A) and free beta‐human chorionic gonadotropin (β‐hCG)) of ≥1 : 30 and/or a nuchal translucency thickness (NT) measurement of ≥ 3.5 mm were classified as high risk. A serum screening result of < 1 : 1000 together with an NT of < 3.5 mm were classified as low risk. Other results were considered intermediate risk, for which further advanced ultrasound screening would be indicated. This protocol was then evaluated prospectively in another population of 13 493 first‐trimester pregnancies.


Of the total population, 1.9% was identified as being high risk (14 trisomy 21 pregnancies and 222 unaffected pregnancies; prevalence, 1 : 17), 59.6% was identified as being low risk (three trisomy 21 pregnancies and 9615 unaffected pregnancies; prevalence, 1 : 3206) and 38.4% was identified as being intermediate risk (10 trisomy 21 pregnancies and 6190 unaffected pregnancies; prevalence, 1 : 620). A similar distribution was found in the prospective arm of the study. There was no reduction of overall screening performance compared with our current first‐trimester combined screening program. The number of intermediate‐risk pregnancies was sufficiently low as to enable advanced ultrasound scanning by well‐trained sonographers only.


In population screening for fetal trisomy 21, sequential triage in the first trimester can be achieved using very simple methods. Pregnancies at high or at low risk can be identified easily and the number of pregnancies at intermediate risk can be reduced sufficiently to enable advanced ultrasound scanning by well‐trained sonographers only. A prospective study is needed to evaluate the performance of this approach and to compare its results with current combined or integrated screening algorithms. Copyright © 2006 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Keywords: contingent screening; first‐trimester screening; population screening; trisomy 21

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2006

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