The aim of this study was to evaluate the detection of fetal structural abnormalities by the 11–14 week scan. 2853 pregnant women were submitted to a routine ultrasound scan between the 11th and 14th week and the fetal skull, brain, spine, abdominal wall, limbs, stomach and bladder were examined. Following the scans the patientes were examined in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. An isolated increased nuchal translucency was not considered an abnormality. However, these patients had an early echocardiography assessment. Fetal structural abnormalities were classified as major or minor and of early or late onset. A total of 130 (4.6%) defects were identified and 29 (22.3%) of these were diagnosed at the 11–14 week scan, including nine cardiac defects associated with increased nuchal translucency. The antenatal ultrasound detection rate was 71.5%, and 31.2% were detected in the first-trimester assessment. 78.8% of the major defects were diagnosed by the prenatal scan and 37.8% by the 11–14 week scan. Fetal structural abnormalities at the 11–14 week scan were detected in approximately 22.3% of the cases, therefore, a second-trimester anomaly scan is important in routine antenatal care to increase the prenatal detection of fetal defects. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.