Neural tube defects: maternal serum screening and prenatal diagnosis

Pediatr Clin North Am. 1978 Aug;25(3):619-29. doi: 10.1016/s0031-3955(16)33607-0.


Neural tube defects represent some of the most common and serious of the congenital malformations. Although elevation of alpha-fetoprotein in amniotic fluid is not diagnostic, it does indicate an abnormality of the fetus in a very high proportion of cases. A normal level, however, does not exclude the possibility of a closed neural tube defect. It is therefore recommended that all amniocenteses performed between 15 and 20 weeks of gestation include measurement of alpha-fetoprotein. Maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein assay is a screening test and pilot studies will be necessary to determine its value as a routine prenatal blood test.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amniocentesis
  • Amniotic Fluid / analysis
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Humans
  • Neural Tube Defects / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis*
  • Risk
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / analysis*


  • alpha-Fetoproteins