Trade-Offs in Prenatal Detection of Down Syndrome

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Abstract

Objectives

This paper presents the results of different screening policies for prenatal detection of Down syndrome that would allow decision makers to make informed choices.

Methods

A decision analysis model was built to compare 8 screening policies with regard to a selected set of outcome measures. Probabilities used in the analysis were obtained from official administrative data reports in Spain and Catalonia and from data published in the medical literature. Sensitivity analyses were carried out to test the robustness of screening policies' results to changes in uptake rates, diagnostic accuracy, and resources consumed.

Results

Selected screening policies posed major trades-offs regarding detection rates, false-positive results, fetal loss, and costs of the programs. All outcome measures considered were found quite robust to changes in uptake rates. Sensitivity and specificity rates of screening tests were shown to be the most influential factors in the outcome measures considered.

Conclusions

The disclosed trade-offs emphasize the need to comprehensively inform decision makers about both positive and negative consequences of adopting one screening policy or another. (Am J Public Health. 1998;88:551-557)

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