• screening;
  • soft markers;
  • ultrasound;
  • genetic sonogram;
  • Down syndrome



To determine the association between second trimester ultrasound findings (genetic sonogram) and the risk of Down syndrome.


Prospective population-based cohort study of women who were at increased risk of chromosome abnormality based on serum screening.


Overall 9244 women with singleton pregnancies were included, including 245 whose fetuses had Down syndrome. Overall, 15.3% of the women had an abnormal genetic sonogram, including 14.2% of pregnancies with normal fetuses and 53.1% of those with Down syndrome. If the genetic sonogram were normal, the risk that a woman had a fetus with Down syndrome was reduced (likelihood ratio 0.55 [95% CI 0.49, 0.62]) However, if the normal genetic sonogram were used to counsel these high-risk women that they could avoid amniocentesis, approximately half of the cases of Down syndrome (115 of 245) would have been missed. The isolated ultrasound soft markers were the most commonly observed abnormality. These were seen in a high proportion of Down syndrome fetuses (13.9%) and normal fetuses (9.3%). In the absence of a structural anomaly, the isolated ultrasound soft markers of choroid plexus cyst, echogenic bowel, renal pyelectasis, clenched hands, clinodactyly, two-vessel umbilical cord, short femur, and short humerus were not associated with Down syndrome. Nuchal fold thickening was a notable exception, as a thick nuchal fold raised the risk of Down syndrome even when it was seen without an associated structural anomaly.


All women included in this study were at high risk of Down syndrome based on serum screening, and thus the results of this study cannot be used as a basis to modify maternal age-related risk.


The accuracy of the genetic sonogram is less than previously reported. The genetic sonogram should not be used as a sequential test following serum biochemistry, as this would substantially reduce the prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome cases. In contrast to prior reports, most isolated soft markers were not associated with Down syndrome. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.