Monday, July 26, 2004
What is an "Ultra-screen" test?

Some medical centers have added a blood test or two to the nuchal measurement to give you an even more accurate risk assessment. A relatively new screening test called the "Ultra-screen" combines the nuchal fold measurement with two blood tests (also done between 11 and 14 weeks), increasing the accuracy of the risk assessment from 80 to 90 percent for Down syndrome. (But remember it's still an estimate of risk and not definitive, like CVS or amniocentesis.) The Ultra-screen is not yet widely available but is becoming more common. The blood tests measure two proteins in your blood: freeBeta-hcg (the free beta subunit of human chorionic gonadotropin) and PAPP-A (pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A). The blood samples are collected from your fingertips — they only need a few drops — and results are usually available in 24 hours. (Other centers may be combining the results of some of these tests with the multiple marker screen at 15 to 18 weeks.)Finally, a few very advanced medical centers are also starting to include one more factor into the risk assessment. They're looking for the baby's nasal bone. If it's not there at all between 11 and 14 weeks, the baby is at an increased risk for Down syndrome. Research results indicate that including this marker along with the mother's age, baby's age, nuchal fold measurement, and blood tests can bring the accuracy of the risk assessment up to 97 percent.
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