Fetal nasal bone in screening for trisomies 21, 18 and 13 and Turner syndrome at 11-13 weeks of gestation

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Mar;33(3):259-64. doi: 10.1002/uog.6318.


Objective: To investigate the performance of first-trimester screening for aneuploidies by including assessment of the fetal nasal bone in the combined test of maternal age, fetal nuchal translucency (NT) thickness, fetal heart rate (FHR) and serum free beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (beta-hCG) and pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A).

Methods: Screening by the combined test was performed in singleton pregnancies, including 19,614 with euploid fetuses, 122 with trisomy 21, 36 with trisomy 18, 20 with trisomy 13 and eight with Turner syndrome. In all cases the fetal nasal bone was assessed and classified as present or absent. We examined the performance of two screening strategies: firstly, assessment of the nasal bone in all patients and secondly, first-stage screening using the combined test in all patients followed by second-stage assessment of the nasal bone only in those with an intermediate risk of 1 in 51 to 1 in 1000 after the first stage. To validate the new risk algorithm we used a second independent dataset of 19 651 fetuses, including 139 with trisomy 21.

Results: The nasal bone was absent in 2.6% of the euploid fetuses, 59.8% with trisomy 21, 52.8% with trisomy 18, 45.0% with trisomy 13 and in none of the fetuses with Turner syndrome. Respective figures for an absent nasal bone in the validation population, which contained fewer Black women, were 0.6%, 62.6%, 55.3%, 35.3% and 41.7%. In a screening policy based on maternal age, fetal NT, FHR, serum free beta-hCG and PAPP-A, for a fixed risk cut-off of 1 : 100, the false-positive rate was 3.0%. The standardized detection rates were 91% for trisomy 21 and 100% for trisomy 18, trisomy 13 and Turner syndrome, respectively. Assessment of the nasal bone in all pregnancies reduced the false-positive rate to 2.5% without changing the detection rate. A detection rate of 93% was achieved with the two-stage strategy at a false-positive rate of 2.4% in which it was necessary to assess the nasal bone in only 15% of the total population. In the validation dataset, screening by the combined test and using a risk cut-off of 1 : 100 detected 90% of the cases with trisomy 21 for a false-positive rate of 4%. Inclusion of the nasal bone increased the detection rate to 92% for a false-positive rate of 2.9%. Contingent screening detected 92% of cases for a false-positive rate of 2.9%.

Conclusions: Assessment of the fetal nasal bone improves the performance of first-trimester screening for trisomy 21.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / blood*
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / genetics
  • Chromosomes, Human, 13-15 / genetics
  • Chromosomes, Human, 16-18 / genetics
  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Heart Rate, Fetal / genetics
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Bone / abnormalities*
  • Nasal Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Nuchal Translucency Measurement
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First / blood
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First / genetics
  • Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A / analysis*
  • Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A / genetics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Trisomy / diagnosis*
  • Trisomy / genetics
  • Turner Syndrome / genetics
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal
  • Young Adult


  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human
  • Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A