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Prenat Diagn. 2006 Jun;26(6):559-64.

Screening in early pregnancy for pre-eclampsia using Down syndrome quadruple test markers.

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  • 1Centre for Environmental and Preventive Medicine, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, Charterhouse Square, UK.



To estimate the screening performance of early second-trimester prenatal serum markers for Down syndrome, in screening for the development of pre-eclampsia, and analyse the uncertainty over its screening performance.


A nested case-control study was carried out on 96 women with pre-eclampsia and 5 controls for each case from among the women attending three hospitals in London for their prenatal care. Record linkage between computerized obstetric and screening databases identified women with pre-eclampsia and unaffected control women. The stored frozen serum samples collected from these pregnancies between 15 and 22 weeks' gestation were retrieved and assayed for alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), unconjugated estriol (uE(3)), total human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), free beta-hCG and inhibin-A.


Pre-eclampsia was identified from the computerized obstetric records and confirmed by examination of the medical notes. In the pregnancies that went on to develop pre-eclampsia, early second trimester inhibin-A and hCG values were significantly raised and uE(3) values were significantly lowered, while AFP values were not significantly altered. Using the Quadruple test markers (AFP, uE(3), hCG (total or free beta) and inhibin-A), an estimated 34% of pregnancies that developed pre-eclampsia were detected at a 5% false-positive rate. If all the women who had pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy (assuming a pre-eclampsia prevalence of 4%) are considered as screen positive and the serum test is applied to the remaining women, then around 42% of pre-eclamptic pregnancies would be detected at a 6.5% false-positive rate. Pre-eclampsia screening performance using the Quadruple test markers was materially better than that using the Triple test markers.


Adding screening for pre-eclampsia to an existing Down syndrome screening programme using the Quadruple test markers is simple and worthwhile. It will detect over 40% of pregnancies with pre-eclampsia at an acceptable false-positive rate (about 6%) and with minimal additional costs.

Copyright 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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