The addition of second trimester serum markers to maternal age increases the efficacy of screening for Down syndrome by maternal age alone. Among women aged 35 years or older, serum screening makes a large proportion of amniocentesis unnecessary. However, there are ethical and medicolegal concerns about serum screening in 'old' women, largely because some of the pregnancies affected by Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities may not be detected. We investigated the acceptability of serum screening in women aged 35 years or older when it was offered as an alternative to prenatal cytogenetic diagnosis after detailed counselling. Women referred for prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome because of advanced maternal age were given the options of cytogenetic diagnosis by chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis. As an alternative, they could choose to undergo second trimester serum human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) screening first before deciding on whether to undergo amniocentesis. Between January 1997 and October 1999, 3419 subjects were recruited. 1807 women (52. 9%) chose to undergo serum screening, 1516 women (44.3%) chose to have amniocentesis and 96 women chose to have CVS (2.8%). The proportion of women who chose serum screening rose steadily from 38. 8% in the year of 1997 to 63.4% in 1999. Significantly fewer Chinese women chose serum screening than non-Chinese. The decision as to whether to undergo an invasive diagnostic procedure or to be content with the relatively safer but less accurate screening test varies, being affected by the women's background and culture.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.