Research Article

Screening for Down's syndrome using serum alpha fetoprotein: a retrospective study indicating caution.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 290 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.290.6486.1940 (Published 29 June 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;290:1940
  1. K Spencer,
  2. P Carpenter

    Abstract

    A report was made on the outcome of a four year retrospective study in 27 064 pregnancies, of the clinical efficiency, sensitivity, and specificity of a screening programme for Down's syndrome based on reported strategies related to the measurement of maternal serum alpha fetoprotein. This study identified 27 pregnancies affected by Down's syndrome with a median multiple of the median maternal serum alpha fetoprotein concentration of 0.82. This figure is considerably higher than that obtained from previous reports on this subject. With an age related multiple of the median maternal serum alpha fetoprotein strategy, 30.8% of Down's affected pregnancies were identified as well as 11.6% of unaffected pregnancies. Perhaps a United Kingdom collaborative study should begin to investigate the reasons for such wide population variance in the reports for the median multiple of the median for Down's affected pregnancies. Until such studies are carried out, screening for Down's syndrome based on low maternal serum alpha fetoprotein concentration is premature.