Risk of fetal chromosomal anomalies in patients with elevated maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein

Alison A. Warner*, Mark J. Pettenati, Barbara K. Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


When elevated maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP) results lead to diagnostic amniocentesis, a decision of whether to karyotype fetal cells must be made. We examined our experience with MSAFP screening in 71,563 unselected pregnancies in which karyotyping was performed when amniocentesis was done because of MSAFP elevations. A total of 727 women (1.0%) underwent amniocentesis because of elevated MSAFP values and among this group, seven chromosomal anomalies (incidence one in 104) were detected. of the 727 women, 658 (91%) had normal amniotic fluid AFP. In this group, there were six (one in 109) chromosomally abnormal fetuses: three with triploidy, two with 47, XXX, and one with 46, XX,1q-. Among the 69 pregnancies with elevated amniotic fluid AFP, one fetal chromosomal anomaly (trisomy 13) was diagnosed. The incidence of all chromosomal anomalies observed in women undergoing amniocentesis because of elevated MSAFP is comparable to that reported in women 36 years of age undergoing testing because of advanced maternal age. We believe that chromosome analysis should be performed on amniotic fluid samples obtained because of elevated MSAFP unless there are compelling financial circumstances that preclude this. Even in such cases, cell cultures should be established until the amniotic fluid AFP result is available. Chromosome analysis is essential when the amniotic fluid AFP is elevated because of the known association between open fetal defects (spina bifida, omphalocele, and scalp defects) and trisomies 13 and 18.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-66
Number of pages3
JournalObstetrics and gynecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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