A miscarriage is the most frequent complication of a pregnancy. Poor chromosome preparations, culture failure, or maternal cell contamination may hamper conventional karyotyping. Techniques such as chromosomal comparative genomic hybridization (chromosomal-CGH), array-comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH), fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) and quantitative fluorescent polymerase chain reaction (QF-PCR) enable us to trace submicroscopic abnormalities. We found the prevalence of chromosome abnormalities in women facing a single sporadic miscarriage to be 45% (95% CI: 38-52; 13 studies, 7012 samples). The prevalence of chromosome abnormalities in women experiencing a subsequent miscarriage after preceding recurrent miscarriage proved to be comparable: 39% (95% CI: 29-50; 6 studies 1359 samples). More chromosome abnormalities are detected by conventional karyotyping compared to FISH or MLPA only (chromosome region specific techniques), and the same amount of abnormalities compared to QF-PCR (chromosome region specific techniques) and chromosomal-CGH and array-CGH (whole genome techniques) only. Molecular techniques could play a role as an additional technique when culture failure or maternal contamination occurs: recent studies show that by using array-CGH, an additional 5% of submicroscopic chromosome variants can be detected. Because of the small sample size as well as the unknown clinical relevance of these molecular aberrations, more and larger studies should be performed of submicroscopic chromosome abnormalities among sporadic miscarriage samples. For recurrent miscarriage samples molecular technique studies are relatively new. It has often been suggested that miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities in more than 50%, but the present review has determined that chromosomal and submicroscopic genetic abnormalities on average are prevalent in maximally half of the miscarriage samples. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Molecular Genetics of Human Reproductive Failure.
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