A demographic approach to the assessment of Down syndrome screening performance

W. J. Van Der Veen, J. R. Beekhuis, M. C. Cornel, A. Mantingh, H. E K De Walle, B. T H M De Wolf

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24 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this article is to examine the performance of screening for fetal Down syndrome (DS) in the context of demographic variation in time and place, using population and fertility data for several European countries. Two screening approaches are distinguished: one on the basis of maternal serum screening with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in combination with maternal age, and one on the basis of maternal age only. Screening performance, as measured by detection and false-positive ratios, is shown to be the result of the screening approach chosen and of the demographic characteristics of the population under consideration. A proper distinction between these two determinants of DS screening performance should be made, in order to distinguish between an improvement in screening performance that is brought about by a new screening approach and an improvement that is brought about by demographic change. We recommend that measures of DS screening performance be standardized for demographic variation. The methodology and demographic data presented in this article can be used for this purpose.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-724
Number of pages8
JournalPrenatal diagnosis
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Demography
  • Fetal Down syndrome
  • Maternal serum screening
  • Prenatal diagnosis

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