Impact of prenatal screening on the birth status of fetuses with Down syndrome at an urban hospital, 1972-1994

Genet Med. 1998 Nov-Dec;1(1):22-8. doi: 10.1097/00125817-199811000-00006.


Purpose: This hospital-based study has determined the change over time (1972-1974 and 1979-1994) in the methods of prenatal detection of fetuses with Down syndrome and the impact of elective termination on the portion that were liveborn.

Methods: Using a malformations surveillance program, all 265 affected fetuses and infants were identified among 161,560 births and elective terminations during the aforementioned period at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA.

Results: From 1972 to 1974, Down syndrome was not diagnosed in any affected infants prenatally. In the early 1980s, amniocentesis was the primary method of diagnosis; later, maternal serum screening and ultrasonography were as likely to be the first method of detection. Most couples (86%) elected to terminate pregnancies with affected fetuses.

Conclusions: The effect of prenatal detection and the choice of elective termination produced a significant decrease, between 1972 and 1994, in the portion of fetuses with Down syndrome who were liveborn.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Eugenic*
  • Adult
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Demography
  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Down Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fetus*
  • Hospitals, Urban*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prenatal Diagnosis*
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires