Background: In high-risk pregnant women, noninvasive prenatal testing with the use of massively parallel sequencing of maternal plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA testing) accurately detects fetal autosomal aneuploidy. Its performance in low-risk women is unclear.
Methods: At 21 centers in the United States, we collected blood samples from women with singleton pregnancies who were undergoing standard aneuploidy screening (serum biochemical assays with or without nuchal translucency measurement). We performed massively parallel sequencing in a blinded fashion to determine the chromosome dosage for each sample. The primary end point was a comparison of the false positive rates of detection of fetal trisomies 21 and 18 with the use of standard screening and cfDNA testing. Birth outcomes or karyotypes were the reference standard.
Results: The primary series included 1914 women (mean age, 29.6 years) with an eligible sample, a singleton fetus without aneuploidy, results from cfDNA testing, and a risk classification based on standard screening. For trisomies 21 and 18, the false positive rates with cfDNA testing were significantly lower than those with standard screening (0.3% vs. 3.6% for trisomy 21, P<0.001; and 0.2% vs. 0.6% for trisomy 18, P=0.03). The use of cfDNA testing detected all cases of aneuploidy (5 for trisomy 21, 2 for trisomy 18, and 1 for trisomy 13; negative predictive value, 100% [95% confidence interval, 99.8 to 100]). The positive predictive values for cfDNA testing versus standard screening were 45.5% versus 4.2% for trisomy 21 and 40.0% versus 8.3% for trisomy 18.
Conclusions: In a general obstetrical population, prenatal testing with the use of cfDNA had significantly lower false positive rates and higher positive predictive values for detection of trisomies 21 and 18 than standard screening. (Funded by Illumina; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01663350.).