First-year results of routine α-fetoprotein testing on prenatal patients in a family practice

B. D. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For one year all pregnant women presenting to a family practice clinic for prenatal care were routinely tested for maternal serum α-fetoprotein levels (MSAFP). Unexpectedly, 14 (15.7 percent) of 89 tested patients had low MSAFP levels. All 14 pregnant women underwent appropriate diagnostic workups because of the low MSAFP level and were subsequently followed until delivery. Although the literature reports that low MSAFP levels are associated with chromosomal anomalies, none of the 14 women were delivered of infants with anomalies. Reasons for the unexpectedly high rate of abnormal MSAFP levels were investigated. Investigation revealed that normal values of MSAFP tests had been derived from testing performed on high-risk pregnant women who had an inherently higher rate of abnormal pregnancies and, apparently, a different range for normal MSAFP levels than a population of unselected family practice patients. The results of this study demonstrate that it may not be appropriate to apply diagnostic algorithms based on data derived in high-risk subspecialty clinics to unselected patients in a family practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-277
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Family Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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