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Reassessing the risks of invasive testing

Posted in Screening, Statistics, Surveys by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on September 15, 2008

Invasive testing for Down’s syndrome carries a much higher risk of causing the miscarriage of healthy babies than previously thought, according to new research due to be published in the UK this week.

“The research claims that, in detecting and preventing the birth of 660 Down’s babies, 400 healthy foetuses are lost,” reports The Guardian. Currently the National Health Service cites a a miscarriage rate of between 1 and 2% following the invasive amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) tests.

However, no research has been done on the number of babies without Down’s syndrome that are lost due to invasive testing, according to The Guardian. The new research, to be published in the Down’s Syndrome Research and Practice journal, is a best-guess due to the lack of accurate statistics.

Details of the research are due to be broadcast by the UK’s Channel 4 News at 7pm on Tuesday. According to The Guardian the research’s authors are concerned “about how well qualified the staff are who carry out the invasive testing and about their ability to use ultrasound”.

The Foundation for People with Learning Difficulties pointed out in July that “pregnant women and their partners do not always receive the information they need to help them to make decisions about antenatal screening” and that “midwives and obstetricians often feel they lack vital information about disability to guide expectant parents through the screening for fetal abnormality.”

The threshold for the recommendation of invasive testing is also criticised: “To detect as many Down’s babies as possible, the initial screening threshold is set wide, which means that more than 95 per cent of women defined as ‘high risk’ will not be carrying a baby with the disorder, yet most go on to have the amniocentesis or CVS tests.”

If the research results are accurate they will certainly cast a new light on the decision of expectant mothers to decide whether or not to go through with invasive testing. It will be interesting to see how the researchers’ estimates stand up to scrutiny.

The report states that about 750 Down’s babies are born every year in England and Wales.

More on this research.

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3 Responses

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  1. […] have been published by Down Syndrome Education International in conjunction of the findings I noted earlier that indicated that invasive testing for Down’s syndrome carries a much higher risk […]

  2. […] is obviously a lot of interest in both tests, especially given recent research which indicated that invasive tests such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) carry […]

  3. […] to invasive testing (400 for every 660 babies with Down’s syndrome identified and terminated according to recent […]


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