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Prenat Diagn. 1995 Apr;15(4):339-43.

Detecting neural tube defects by amniocentesis between 11 and 15 weeks' gestation.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.


Forty-two open neural tube defects (NTDs) were identified in our series of 7440 amniocenteses tested between 11 and 15 weeks of gestation. Using a cut-off of > or = 2.0 MOM, the detection rate for open NTDs was 95 per cent; 100 per cent each for anencephaly and spina bifida; and 78 per cent for encephalocele. Two encephaloceles had AFP levels less than 2.0 MOM and negative AChEs. Thirty-four (81 per cent) of these NTDs were tested between 13 and 15 weeks and 8 (19 per cent) before 13 weeks. There were 0.6 per cent false positives by AFP (excluding serious abnormalities and fetal death) and 0.1 per cent after AChE. The likelihood of an open NTD after an elevated AFP (> or = 2.0 MOM) was 24 and 77 per cent for any serious abnormality. These results, when combined with an earlier study, indicate that amniotic fluid AFP appears to be as sensitive a test for open NTDs between 13 and 15 weeks as between 16 and 20 weeks. Additional experience is necessary to determine this before 13 weeks.

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