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Report questions prenatal ultrasound screening.

A report from England questions the use of ultrasound in the prenatal diagnosis of Down's syndrome.

In a common prenatal screening technique, clinicians use ultrasound to measure the fluid at the back of the developing fetus' neck, also known as the nuchal thickness. Fetuses with abnormalities tend to accumulate more fluid at the back of their neck during the first trimester, causing this clear space to be larger than average.

But the report claims that the usefulness of fetal nuchal thickness as a technique for attempting to diagnose Down's syndrome is overstated and the reliance on the examination might result in mothers aborting normal fetuses.

Hylton Meire, M.D., former director for of ultrasound at the Portland Hospital for Women and Children in Loudon, reviewed the available scientific evidence in support of the routine use of ultrasound as a screening procedure for pregnant women and concluded that there is no valid data showing any benefit from the routine abnormality scan. Dr. Meire also found that the value of the nuchal thickness measurement probably has been overstated and the technique has not been subjected to valid scientific and statistical scrutiny.

Dr. Meire also xvas critical of the accuracy and reproducibility of the ultrasound measurements, pointing to variability among different operators. One study found that repeating the nuchal measurement with a different operator caused 18.8 percent of all measurements to change their classification between normal and abnormal.

A scientifically valid study would answer questions about the test's effectiveness, said Dr. Meire. The story appeared in the August issue of Ultrasound.
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Title Annotation:in the news
Publication:ASRT Scanner
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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