State-wide utilization and performance of traditional and cell-free DNA-based prenatal testing pathways: the Victorian Perinatal Record Linkage (PeRL) study

A. Lindquist, L. Hui, A. Poulton, E. Kluckow, B. Hutchinson, M. D. Pertile, L. Bonacquisto, L. Gugasyan, A. Kulkarni, J. Harraway, A. Howden, R. McCoy, F. Da Silva Costa, M. Menezes, R. Palma-Dias, D. Nisbet, N. Martin, M. Bethune, Z. Poulakis, J. Halliday

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Objectives: To perform individual record linkage of women undergoing screening with cell-free DNA (cfDNA), combined first-trimester screening (CFTS), second-trimester serum screening (STSS), and/or prenatal and postnatal cytogenetic testing with the aim to (1) obtain population-based estimates of utilization of prenatal screening and invasive diagnosis, (2) analyze the performance of different prenatal screening strategies, and (3) report the residual risk of any major chromosomal abnormality following a low-risk aneuploidy screening result. Methods: This was a retrospective study of women residing in the state of Victoria, Australia, who underwent prenatal screening or invasive prenatal diagnosis in 2015. Patient-funded cfDNA referrals from multiple providers were merged with state-wide results for government-subsidized CFTS, STSS and invasive diagnostic procedures. Postnatal cytogenetic results from products of conception and infants up to 12 months of age were obtained to ascertain cases of false-negative screening results and atypical chromosomal abnormalities. Individual record linkage was performed using LinkageWizTM. Results: During the study period, there were 79 140 births and 66 166 (83.6%) women underwent at least one form of aneuploidy screening. Linkage data were complete for 93.5% (n = 61 877) of women who underwent screening, and of these, 73.2% (n = 45 275) had CFTS alone, 20.2% (n = 12 486) had cfDNA alone; 5.3% (n = 3268) had STSS alone, 1.3% (n = 813) had both CFTS and cfDNA, and < 0.1% (n = 35) had both STSS and cfDNA. CFTS had a combined sensitivity for trisomies 21 (T21), 18 (T18) and 13 (T13) of 89.57% (95% CI, 82.64–93.93%) for a screen-positive rate (SPR) of 2.94%. There were 12 false-negative results in the CFTS pathway, comprising 10 cases of T21, one of T18 and one of T13. cfDNA had a combined sensitivity for T21, T18 and T13 of 100% (95% CI, 95.00–100%) for a SPR of 1.21%. When high-risk cfDNA results for any chromosome (including the sex chromosomes) and failed cfDNA tests were treated as screen positives, the SPR for cfDNA increased to 2.42%. The risk of any major chromosomal abnormality (including atypical abnormalities) detected on prenatal or postnatal diagnostic testing after a low-risk screening result was 1 in 1188 for CFTS (n = 37) and 1 in 762 for cfDNA (n = 16) (P = 0.13). The range of chromosomal abnormalities detected after a low-risk cfDNA result included pathogenic copy-number variants (n = 6), triploidy (n = 3), rare autosomal trisomies (n = 3) and monosomy X (n = 2). Conclusions: Our state-wide record-linkage analysis delineated the utilization and clinical performance of the multitude of prenatal screening pathways available to pregnant women. The sensitivity of cfDNA for T21, T18 and T13 was clearly superior to that of CFTS. While there was no statistically significant difference in the residual risk of any major chromosomal abnormality after a low-risk CFTS or cfDNA result, there were fewer live infants diagnosed with a major chromosomal abnormality in the cfDNA cohort. These data provide valuable population-based evidence to inform practice recommendations and health policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-224
Number of pages10
JournalUltrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • cell-free DNA
  • chromosome abnormality
  • Down-syndrome screening
  • first-trimester screening
  • nuchal translucency
  • prenatal diagnosis
  • prenatal screening
  • serum screening

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