Danish national screening strategy halves Downs syndrome incidences in babies

November 28th, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by ANI  

London, November 28 (ANI): A national screening strategy formulated in Denmark has halved the number of children born with Downs syndrome, according to a new study.

The new finding may provide some encouragement to health policy makers in countries like England, Australia and New Zealand who wish to have national screening strategies for Down’’s syndrome, but are facing a variety of problems because of a lack of consensus about the logistical challenges.

The Danish National Board of Health had issued some guidelines for prenatal screening and diagnosis in 2004 that included the offer of a combined test for Down’’s syndrome, based on combination of maternal age, plus serum and nuchal screening, in the first trimester.

The test gave women a risk assessment for Down’’s syndrome at an early stage in the pregnancy, and those whose risk was higher than a defined cut off were referred for invasive diagnostic tests like chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis.

Professor Ann Tabor, whose team evaluated the impact of the screening strategy, revealed that they analysed data from the 19 Danish departments of gynaecology and obstetrics and the national cytogenetic registry, for an average of 65,000 births each year, between 2000 and 2007.

The researchers found that the new strategy was associated with improved earlier detection of Down’’s syndrome, low false positive rates, and more than a 50 per cent decrease in the number of invasive tests carried out each year.

According to them, the number of infants born with Down’’s syndrome decreased from 55 per year during 2000 to 31 in 2005, and 32 in 2006. They also say that the total number of invasive tests fell sharply from 7524 in 2000 to 3510 in 2006.

The researchers write in their study report, published in BMJ Online, that the detection rate in the screened population was 86 per cent in 2005 and 93 per cent in 2006.

They say that the value of the new screening strategy lies in the fact that all women can be assessed early in pregnancy.

Although the programme is available to all pregnant women in Denmark, the national guidelines clearly state that risk assessment should be carried out only if women choose the test on the basis of informed choice. (ANI)

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