Improved performance in a prenatal screening programme for Down's syndrome incorporating serum-free hCG subunit analyses

Prenat Diagn. 1992 Apr;12(4):251-61. doi: 10.1002/pd.1970120404.


A prenatal screening programme for Down's syndrome potentially detecting 76 per cent of affected pregnancies in the South Australian general population at an amniocentesis rate of 3.9 per cent was designed following analysis of mid-trimester serum samples from 57 women who carried an affected fetus. This equates to one affected pregnancy being detected for 41 chromosomal analyses performed. For the experimental series, 75.4 per cent of affected pregnancies were detected, while 4.1 per cent of control specimens produced estimated risk odds consistent with further action. A maternal risk odds of birth of a Down's syndrome fetus of 1:420 was taken as the decision value, which is the prevalence of Down's syndrome births to 35-year-old mothers in South Australia. This screening performance was achieved by investigating combinations of serum analytes not previously reported and by refining the calculation of maternal risk odds to include selective weighting of indicator analytes. Combination of the measurements of free alpha-subunits and beta-subunits of chorionic gonadotrophin, alpha-fetoprotein, unconjugated oestriol, and placental lactogen was found to be most effective in indicating Down's syndrome fetuses. In all combinations of analytes tested, replacing the measurements of free alpha-subunits and free beta-subunits of chorionic gonadotrophin with the measurement of intact chorionic gonadotropin produced a less effective screen.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / analysis*
  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Estradiol / analysis*
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Placental Lactogen / analysis*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second / blood
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Risk Factors
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / analysis*


  • Chorionic Gonadotropin
  • alpha-Fetoproteins
  • Estradiol
  • Placental Lactogen