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Keywords:

  • prenatal screening;
  • Down syndrome;
  • mathematical modelling;
  • fetal medicine

Abstract

We assessed the discriminatory efficiency and cost-effectiveness of a novel way of organising first trimester screening for Down syndrome (DS), contingent testing, where a serological test (PAPP-A and β-hCG: the double test) is made in early first trimester and followed by nuchal translucency testing (NT) only in women with an intermediate risk, e.g. <1:65 and >1:1000, and not in all women as in normal first trimester screening (NFTS). Using Monte Carlo simulation contingent testing had a detection rate (DR) of 78.9% and a false-positive rate (FPR) of 4.0% for DS with 19.4% of women offered NT testing. The DR of NFTS was 85.5% and the FPR 4.4%. The decrease in NT screening was associated with an increase from 23% to 29% in the proportion of DS cases born. The cost of the contingent testing programme was £53 000 per DS case not born and £91 000 in NFTS. The number of aborted fetuses per DS case were 0.35 and 0.36, respectively. Thus, contingent testing is an organisation of first trimester screening where costs can be reduced with a marginal decrease in performance. Contingent testing is attractive in areas where NT screening is the bottleneck preventing the introduction of first trimester screening. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.