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J Ultrasound Med. 2013 Sep;32(9):1607-13. doi: 10.7863/ultra.32.9.1607.

Efficacy of the genetic sonogram in a stepwise sequential protocol for down syndrome screening.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut USA.



The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the genetic sonogram in Down syndrome screening for women who have received the stepwise sequential test.


This retrospective cohort study included women with singleton pregnancies who underwent stepwise sequential (first-trimester combined and second-trimester serum) screening and then had a genetic sonogram between March 2005 and January 2010. Stepwise sequential Down syndrome risks were multiplied by either a positive or negative likelihood ratio based on the second-trimester sonographic findings to determine the final Down syndrome risk. A final Down syndrome risk of 1:270 or higher was considered screen positive.


A total of 6286 women fulfilled our criteria, including 17 with Down syndrome-affected fetuses. After stepwise sequential testing, the Down syndrome detection rate was 88.2% (15 of 17), and after the genetic sonogram, there was a non-significant reduction in detection to 82.4% (14 of 17; P > .05). For the 6269 unaffected pregnancies, the genetic sonogram converted 58 screen-negative results (1%) to positive and 183 screen-positive results (3.1%) to negative. The net effect was a change in the false-positive rate from 6.2% (390 of 6269) after stepwise sequential screening to 4.2% (266 of 6269) after the genetic sonogram.


The genetic sonogram should be applied cautiously for women who have received prior prenatal screening tests. Women with screen-positive results need to be counseled that a negative sonographic result can be falsely reassuring. Conversely, for women with screen-negative results who have a risk close to the cutoff, a sonographic examination could assist in the decision of whether to accept or reject amniocentesis.


Down syndrome screening; aneuploidy; antenatal screening; genetic sonogram; stepwise sequential

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