Fetal fraction and noninvasive prenatal testing: What clinicians need to know

Prenat Diagn. 2020 Jan;40(2):155-163. doi: 10.1002/pd.5620. Epub 2019 Dec 10.


The fetal fraction (FF) is a function of both biological factors and bioinformatics algorithms used to interpret DNA sequencing results. It is an essential quality control component of noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) results. Clinicians need to understand the biological influences on FF to be able to provide optimal post-test counseling and clinical management. There are many different technologies available for the measurement of FF. Clinicians do not need to know the details behind the bioinformatics algorithms of FF measurements, but they do need to appreciate the significant variations between the different sequencing technologies used by different laboratories. There is no universal FF threshold that is applicable across all platforms and there have not been any differences demonstrated in NIPT performance by sequencing platform or method of FF calculation. Importantly, while FF should be routinely measured, there is not yet a consensus as to whether it should be routinely reported to the clinician. The clinician should know what to expect from a standard test report and whether reasons for failed NIPT results are revealed. Emerging solutions to the challenges of samples with low FF should reduce rates of failed NIPT in the future. In the meantime, having a "plan B" prepared for those patients for whom NIPT is unsuccessful is essential in today's clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Aneuploidy*
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Body Weight
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids / blood*
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / blood
  • Computational Biology
  • Crown-Rump Length
  • DNA Copy Number Variations*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / therapeutic use
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Mosaicism
  • Noninvasive Prenatal Testing / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Pregnancy, Multiple
  • Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A / metabolism
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted
  • Triploidy


  • Anticoagulants
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight
  • Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A