Screening for Down syndrome: changing practice of obstetricians

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Apr;200(4):459.e1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2008.12.027.


Objective: We sought to assess the impact of American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines on the practices and knowledge of obstetricians regarding screening for Down syndrome 1 year later.

Study design: A questionnaire on Down syndrome screening was mailed to 968 ACOG Fellows and Junior Fellows.

Results: The response rate was 53%. The majority (95%) of respondents offer Down syndrome screening to all pregnant patients; 70% of general obstetricians offer the first-trimester screen and 86% the quad screen. Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents are offering patients >/= 1 combination of first- and second-trimester screening tests. For women aged < 35 years, 70% offer amniocentesis selectively and 15% routinely. Chorionic villus sampling is offered less frequently. Respondents who more closely read the bulletin were more likely to say their practice had changed, answered more knowledge questions correctly, and felt more qualified to counsel patients. Most (85%) obstetricians personally counsel patients about Down syndrome risk and screening tests. The majority (94-95%) of respondents have access to adequate resources for screening within a 90-minute drive.

Conclusion: Obstetricians have adopted a new paradigm for Down syndrome screening. First-trimester screening has been incorporated into prenatal care. Experience with these current screening tests will likely influence future guidelines and challenge the long-standing tradition of offering diagnostic testing based on maternal age. This study highlights the need for concise, unambiguous guidelines and a need to address unresolved issues in Down syndrome screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obstetrics*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires