The Northern Regional Fetal Abnormality Survey

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Abstract

Antenatal care took a quantum leap forward when techniques, including in particular sonar examination, made it possible to assess certain aspects of fetal health and development antenatally in a non-invasive way. Initially such techniques were largely used in the review and assessment of high risk pregnancies, but alphafetoprotein (AFP) and sonar screening are now being widely used to screen all mothers for fetal abnormality in early pregnancy. The reliability of such techniques in expert hands has been well documented, but the reliability of these approaches when used in a routine district health service setting has not so far been monitored. False positive and false negative diagnoses are almost inevitable when any newly developed screening programme is first set up, but the only available information on the accuracy of sonar diagnosis was coming from a small number of referral centres with a concentration of specialist experience serving an ill-defined catchment area.