Maternal serum biochemistry at 11-13(+6) weeks in relation to the presence or absence of the fetal nasal bone on ultrasonography in chromosomally abnormal fetuses: an updated analysis of integrated ultrasound and biochemical screening

Simona Cicero, Kevin Spencer, Kyriaki Avgidou, Stefano Faiola, Kypros H Nicolaides
Prenatal Diagnosis 2005, 25 (11): 977-83

BACKGROUND: Screening for trisomy 21 by a combination of maternal age, fetal nuchal translucency (NT) thickness and maternal serum free beta-hCG and pregnancy associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) at 11-13(+6) weeks of gestation is associated with a detection rate of 90%, for a false-positive rate of 5%. Recent evidence suggests that in about 70% of fetuses with trisomy 21 the nasal bone is not visible at the 11-13(+6) week scan and that the frequency of absence of nasal bone differs in different ethnic groups. In addition, there is a relationship between absent nasal bone and nuchal translucency thickness. In a preliminary study we showed that while PAPP-A levels were lower and free beta-hCG levels were higher in trisomy 21 fetuses with an absent nasal bone, this difference was not statistically different. In fetuses with trisomy 13 and trisomy 18, there is also a high (57 and 67%) incidence of an absent nasal bone. The aim of this present study was to extend our examination of whether the level of maternal serum biochemical markers is independent of the presence or absence of the nasal bone in cases with trisomy 21 and to ascertain if any differences exist in cases with trisomies 13 and 18.

METHODS: This study data comprised 100 trisomy 21 singleton pregnancies at 11-13(+6) weeks of gestation from our previous study and an additional 42 cases analysed as part of routine OSCAR screening. A total of 34 cases with trisomy 18 and 12 cases with trisomy 13 were also available. Ultrasound examination was carried out for measurement of fetal NT and assessment of the presence or absence of the fetal nasal bone. Maternal serum free beta-hCG and PAPP-A were measured using the Kryptor rapid random access immunoassay analyser (Brahms Diagnostica AG, Berlin). The distribution of maternal serum free beta-hCG and PAPP-A in chromosomally abnormal fetuses with absent and present nasal bone was examined.

RESULTS: The nasal bone was absent in 29 and present in 13 of the new trisomy 21 cases and in 98 (69%) and 44 respectively in the combined series. For the trisomy 18 cases, the nasal bone was absent in 19 (55.9%) cases and in 3 (25%) of cases of trisomy 13. There were no significant differences in median maternal age, median gestational age, NT delta, free beta-hCG MoM and PAPP-A MoM in trisomy 21 fetuses with and without a visible nasal bone, and similarly for those with trisomies 13 or 18. For a false-positive rate of 5%, it was estimated that screening with the four markers in combination with maternal age would be associated with a detection rate of 96% of cases with trisomy 21. For a false-positive rate of 0.5%, the detection rate was 88%.

CONCLUSIONS: There is no relationship between an absent fetal nasal bone and the levels of maternal serum PAPP-A or free beta-hCG in cases with trisomies 13, 18 or 21. An integrated sonographic and biochemical test at 11-13(+6) weeks can potentially identify about 88% of trisomy 21 fetuses for a false-positive rate of 0.5%.

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