Many Doctors Don't Offer Down Syndrome Screenings

Only 2% of obstetricians perform chorionic villus sampling

THURSDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- While most obstetricians feel qualified to counsel pregnant women on genetic issues, large percentages fail to offer counseling, first-trimester screening or chorionic villus sampling for Down syndrome, according to a study in the January issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Jane Cleary-Goldman, M.D., of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues mailed questionnaires to 1,105 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Fellows and Junior Fellows in 2004, to investigate their knowledge and practices involving Down syndrome screening.

Of 532 practicing obstetricians returning questionnaires, 80% felt their training and experience qualified them to counsel patients about genetic issues in pregnancy. Yet, 45% rated their residency training on prenatal diagnosis barely adequate or nonexistent.

Only 67% reported counseling patients on heritable genetic abnormalities, the researchers found. Although 99% offered second-trimester Down syndrome screening, only 55% offered it during the first trimester. While 88% routinely offered at-risk patients amniocentesis, only 44% also offered chorionic villus sampling, and just 2% actually performed it, according to the report.

"This survey identified deficiencies related to Down syndrome screening, including a limited number of practitioners performing chorionic villus sampling and physicians' own perception that training regarding genetic counseling should be improved," the authors conclude. "Educational strategies are needed to address these deficiencies."

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