Prenatal cell-free DNA screening for fetal aneuploidy in pregnant women at average or high risk: Results from a large US clinical laboratory

Mol Genet Genomic Med. 2019 Mar;7(3):e545. doi: 10.1002/mgg3.545. Epub 2019 Jan 31.


Background: We evaluated the performance of a cell-free DNA (cfDNA) prenatal screening assay for trisomies 21, 18, and 13, and sex chromosome aneuploidies (SCAs) among a population of pregnant women that included both those at average and high risk.

Methods: Specimen collection, cfDNA extraction, massively parallel sequencing, and bioinformatics analysis were conducted per laboratory protocol. Assay results, concordance with pregnancy outcomes, and performance characteristics were evaluated.

Results: A total 75,658 specimens from 72,176 individual pregnant women were received. Technical reasons accounted for 288 (0.4% of all received samples) tests not performed. In the final analysis cohort (N = 69,794), 13% of pregnancies were considered at average risk and 87% at high risk. Mean gestational age at specimen collection was 15.1 weeks. Of the 69,794 unique pregnancies, 1,359 (1.9%) had positive test results. Among the results with confirmed outcomes, PPV for trisomies 21, 18, and 13 was 98.1%, 88.2%, and 59.3%, respectively; the PPV was 69.0% for SCAs and 75.0% for microdeletions. Overall, PPV was 87.2%, sensitivity was 97.9%, and specificity was 99.9%.

Conclusion: This cfDNA prenatal screening assay provides highly accurate discrimination between affected and unaffected pregnancies among a population of pregnant women at average and high risk for fetal genetic abnormalities.

Keywords: cfDNA prenatal screening assay; fetal aneuploidy; genetic counseling; microdeletion; microduplication; positive predictive value; sex chromosome aneuploidy; trisomy 13; trisomy 18; trisomy 21.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aneuploidy*
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids / chemistry
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids / genetics*
  • Chromosome Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Chromosome Disorders / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Genetic Testing / standards
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / standards


  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids