Urine tests for Down's syndrome screening

Alldred, S. Kate, Guo, Boliang, Takwoingi, Yemisi, Pennant, Mary, Wisniewski, Susanna, Deeks, Jonathan J., Neilson, James P., Alfirevic, Zarko and Alldred, S Kate (2015) Urine tests for Down's syndrome screening. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews . ISSN 1469-493X

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Down's syndrome occurs when a person has three copies of chromosome 21, or the specific area of chromosome 21 implicated in causing Down's syndrome, rather than two. It is the commonest congenital cause of mental disability and also leads to numerous metabolic and structural problems. It can be life-threatening, or lead to considerable ill health, although some individuals have only mild problems and can lead relatively normal lives. Having a baby with Down's syndrome is likely to have a significant impact on family life. The risk of a Down's syndrome affected pregnancy increases with advancing maternal age.

Noninvasive screening based on biochemical analysis of maternal serum or urine, or fetal ultrasound measurements, allows estimates of the risk of a pregnancy being affected and provides information to guide decisions about definitive testing. Before agreeing to screening tests, parents need to be fully informed about the risks, benefits and possible consequences of such a test. This includes subsequent choices for further tests they may face, and the implications of both false positive and false negative screening tests (i.e. invasive diagnostic testing, and the possibility that a miscarried fetus may be chromosomally normal). The decisions that may be faced by expectant parents inevitably engender a high level of anxiety at all stages of the screening process, and the outcomes of screening can be associated with considerable physical and psychological morbidity. No screening test can predict the severity of problems a person with Down's syndrome will have.


To estimate and compare the accuracy of first and second trimester urine markers for the detection of Down's syndrome.

Search methods

We carried out a sensitive and comprehensive literature search of MEDLINE (1980 to 25 August 2011), EMBASE (1980 to 25 August 2011), BIOSIS via EDINA (1985 to 25 August 2011), CINAHL via OVID (1982 to 25 August 2011), The Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness (The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 7), MEDION (25 August 2011), The Database of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses in Laboratory Medicine (25 August 2011), The National Research Register (archived 2007), Health Services Research Projects in Progress database (25 August 2011). We studied reference lists and published review articles.

Selection criteria

Studies evaluating tests of maternal urine in women up to 24 weeks of gestation for Down's syndrome, compared with a reference standard, either chromosomal verification or macroscopic postnatal inspection.

Data collection and analysis

We extracted data as test positive or test negative results for Down's and non-Down's pregnancies allowing estimation of detection rates (sensitivity) and false positive rates (1-specificity). We performed quality assessment according to QUADAS (Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies) criteria. We used hierarchical summary ROC (receiver operating characteristic) meta-analytical methods to analyse test performance and compare test accuracy. We performed analysis of studies allowing direct comparison between tests. We investigated the impact of maternal age on test performance in subgroup analyses.

Main results

We included 19 studies involving 18,013 pregnancies (including 527 with Down's syndrome). Studies were generally of high quality, although differential verification was common with invasive testing of only high-risk pregnancies. Twenty-four test combinations were evaluated formed from combinations of the following seven different markers with and without maternal age: AFP (alpha-fetoprotein), ITA (invasive trophoblast antigen), ß-core fragment, free ßhCG (beta human chorionic gonadotrophin), total hCG, oestriol, gonadotropin peptide and various marker ratios. The strategies evaluated included three double tests and seven single tests in combination with maternal age, and one triple test, two double tests and 11 single tests without maternal age. Twelve of the 19 studies only evaluated the performance of a single test strategy while the remaining seven evaluated at least two test strategies. Two marker combinations were evaluated in more than four studies; second trimester ß-core fragment (six studies), and second trimester ß-core fragment with maternal age (five studies).

In direct test comparisons, for a 5% false positive rate (FPR), the diagnostic accuracy of the double marker second trimester ß-core fragment and oestriol with maternal age test combination was significantly better (ratio of diagnostic odds ratio (RDOR): 2.2 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1 to 4.5), P = 0.02) (summary sensitivity of 73% (CI 57 to 85) at a cut-point of 5% FPR) than that of the single marker test strategy of second trimester ß-core fragment and maternal age (summary sensitivity of 56% (CI 45 to 66) at a cut-point of 5% FPR), but was not significantly better (RDOR: 1.5 (0.8 to 2.8), P = 0.21) than that of the second trimester ß-core fragment to oestriol ratio and maternal age test strategy (summary sensitivity of 71% (CI 51 to 86) at a cut-point of 5% FPR).

Authors' conclusions

Tests involving second trimester ß-core fragment and oestriol with maternal age are significantly more sensitive than the single marker second trimester ß-core fragment and maternal age, however, there were few studies. There is a paucity of evidence available to support the use of urine testing for Down's syndrome screening in clinical practice where alternatives are available.

Item Type: Article
RIS ID: https://nottingham-repository.worktribe.com/output/769551
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine > Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology
University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD011984
Depositing User: Guo, Dr Boliang
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2016 12:22
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 17:27
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/31488

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