Committee Opinion No. 640: Cell-Free DNA Screening For Fetal Aneuploidy

Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Sep;126(3):e31-e37. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001051.


Noninvasive prenatal screening that uses cell-free DNA from the plasma of pregnant women offers tremendous potential as a screening method for fetal aneuploidy. A number of laboratories have validated different techniques for the use of cell-free DNA as a screening test for fetal aneuploidy. All tests have a high sensitivity and specificity for trisomy 18 and trisomy 21, regardless of which molecular technique is used. Women whose results are not reported, indeterminate, or uninterpretable (a "no call" test result) from cell-free DNA screening should receive further genetic counseling and be offered comprehensive ultrasound evaluation and diagnostic testing because of an increased risk of aneuploidy. Patients should be counseled that cell-free DNA screening does not replace the precision obtained with diagnostic tests, such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis and, therefore, is limited in its ability to identify all chromosome abnormalities. Cell-free DNA screening does not assess risk of fetal anomalies such as neural tube defects or ventral wall defects. Patients who are undergoing cell-free DNA screening should be offered maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein screening or ultrasound evaluation for risk assessment. The cell-free DNA screening test should not be considered in isolation from other clinical findings and test results. Management decisions, including termination of the pregnancy, should not be based on the results of the cell-free DNA screening alone. Patients should be counseled that a negative cell-free DNA test result does not ensure an unaffected pregnancy. Given the performance of conventional screening methods, the limitations of cell-free DNA screening performance, and the limited data on cost-effectiveness in the low-risk obstetric population, conventional screening methods remain the most appropriate choice for first-line screening for most women in the general obstetric population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advisory Committees / standards
  • Aneuploidy*
  • Cell-Free System
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 18
  • DNA / blood*
  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Genetic Testing / standards
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / standards
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trisomy / diagnosis
  • Trisomy 18 Syndrome
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / analysis


  • alpha-Fetoproteins
  • DNA