Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Precision in estimating gestational age and its influence on sensitivity of alphafetoprotein screening.

Br Med J 1979; 1 doi: (Published 14 April 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;1:981
  1. C J Roberts,
  2. B M Hibbard,
  3. D R Evans,
  4. K T Evans,
  5. K M Laurence,
  6. M Hoole,
  7. E Roberts,
  8. W P Ennis


    The interpretation of maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) concentrations in relation to fetal neural tube defects depends on accurate assessment of the gestational age. In a quadruple-blind study three antenatal methods of assessment--namely, menstrual dates, clinical examination, and ultrasound scanning--were correlated with postnatal assessment using the Dubowitz scoring system. The best agreement to +/- 1 week was obtained using menstrual dates and ultrasound in combination, such agreement being found in 91 (77%) of the 118 women studied. Since serum AFP concentrations vary with gestational age, precise gestational dating is necessary. In many cases, particularly in women who are unsure of their dates or have irregular menstrual cycles, ultrasound examination is needed to supplement clinical findings.