This paper examines the association between fetal choroid plexus cysts (CPCs) and trisomy 18 and proposes a method by which risks can be derived taking into account both sonographic findings and maternal age. Data from our centre on the sonographic findings of 58 fetuses with trisomy 18 and 387 fetuses with CPCs as well as data from published series were used. It was calculated that the prevalence of CPCs in the general population is approximately 1 per cent and at mid-gestation the incidence of CPCs in fetuses with trisomy 18 is approximately 50 per cent. In the 387 fetuses with CPCs, the incidence of trisomy 18 increased with maternal age and the likelihood ratio for trisomy 18 increased with the number of additional abnormalities, from 0.03 for those with isolated CPCs to 0.4 if there was one additional abnormality and 20.5 if there were two or more additional abnormalities. It was concluded that if the cysts are apparently isolated, the risk for trisomy 18 is only marginally increased and maternal age should be the main factor in deciding whether or not to offer fetal karyotyping. If one additional abnormality is found, the maternal age-related risk is increased, so that even for a 20-year-old the risk for trisomy 18 is at least as high as the risk for trisomy 21 in a 35-year-old. In this respect, it may be considered desirable to offer such patients the option of karyotyping.