Antenatal ultrasound screening for fetal abnormalities: a systematic review of studies of cost and cost effectiveness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • J Henderson
  • M Mugford
  • L Bricker
  • J Neilson
  • J Garcia


OBJECTIVE: To review systematically and critically evidence to derive estimates of costs and cost effectiveness of routine ultrasound screening for fetal abnormalities. DESIGN: A systematic review of the literature using explicit criteria for inclusion of primary research studies, a stated electronic strategy to identify relevant material, and an explanation of why apparently relevant studies have not been included. SETTING: All countries of origin were included. The results of this review are important to obstetricians and to health service managers in the allocation of resources, and others who are considering conducting further research in this area. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Formal economic evaluations and cost studies of routine ultrasound screening. Costs of routine anomaly scans and costs of other procedures carried out as part of antenatal screening by ultrasound. RESULTS: One hundred and ninety-nine studies were identified in total, 24 reaching the final stage of the review. Nine studies were formal economic evaluations and 15 reported costs studies or clinical effectiveness studies with some assessment of cost. The studies were carried out mainly in Europe and in the United States. After quality criteria were applied, data were extracted from six of the economic evaluations and six of the costs studies. One economic evaluation conducted alongside a randomised trial concluded that screening for fetal abnormalities by ultrasound in the second trimester was cost effective, compared with routine antenatal care. The costs of routine scans ranged from Pound Sterling 18 to Pound Sterling 204 and for non-routine ranged from Pound Sterling 32 to Pound Sterling 113. CONCLUSIONS: There is a lack of good quality primary studies of the costs of ultrasound screening in pregnancy. Typically, economic evaluations of ultrasound screening have been based on poor quality evidence of clinical effectiveness. There is a need for more published data on the costs and cost effectiveness of routine ultrasound screening for fetal anomalies, and of the longer term consequences of screening for anomalies.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-56
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002