Antenatal Screening Services
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Intensive Course on Screening for Down's syndrome
Next date: to be announced

Annual intensive courses on antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome have been held at the Wolfson Institute since 1993. This three-day course is an intensive, theoretical and practical course in antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome.


The course is aimed at people who are, or expect to be, involved in antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome, primarily: antenatal screening co-ordinators, obstetricians, midwives, sonographers, public health doctors, laboratory directors and technicians.

The number of participants is limited to forty. This number is small enough to enable the course to be interactive. As with all education provided by the Wolfson Institute, course participants are encouraged to ask questions and actively participate in discussion.

Participants on the course come from many disciplines and from many countries. As well as learning from the teaching staff, participants have the opportunity to learn from each other, comparing their practices with those of other countries and discovering how their role in the screening process fits in with others.


The core teaching staff is from the Wolfson Institute, outside experts from the US and specialists in related fields from neighbouring hospitals and laboratories.


The course covers all of the disciplines and fields of antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome, from the principles of screening to the technical and practical issues. The 2013 course has been revised to focus on the new DNA techniques as well as the established first and second trimester methods. The programme covers::


  • Milestones in antenatal screening
  • Medical and genetic characteristics of Down’s syndrome

Principles of screening

  • MoM values, likelihood ratios and the calculation of risk
  • Calculation of detection rates and false positive rates

Established screening methods

  • Screening in the first and second trimesters using biochemistry and ultrasound
  • Physiology of serum markers

DNA techniques

  • Methods of DNA measurement in screening for Down’s syndrome
  • DNA methods applied in practice
  • Harmonising current and new screening technologies: Reflex DNA screening

Factors affecting the screening markers and the calculation of risk

  • Age specific Down’s syndrome risk and recurrence risk
  • Factors affecting the serum markers
  • Dealing with the problem of recurrent false positives
  • Reporting risks: at first trimester, second trimester or term? Understanding bias

Screening for other abnormalities and incidental findings using the screening markers

  • Trisomy 18 and 13
  • Other abnormalities
  • Using the markers to screen for pre-eclampsia

Diagnostic tests

  • Prenatal diagnosis for raised risk of Down’s syndrome: QF-PCR or full karyotyping

Monitoring and audit

  • Laboratory quality control
  • Epidemiological monitoring and quality control of NT
  • Monitoring your screening programme

Patient information and counselling

  • Pre-test information giving and post-test counselling


  • Principles of screening: risk calculation
  • Interpretation of results
  • Giving pre-test information and reporting results to patients
  • Monitoring screening using software

Participants are provided with a course folder containing comprehensive notes to accompany all of the presentations and workshops.


The course is held at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, London. For a map showing our location, please click here.

Course fee

(May be subject to revision: the fees given here were for the May 2013 course.)

The course fee is £800 for non-profit, health service and academic organisations and £1,600 for commercial organisations. This fee includes course materials, a non-refundable registration fee of £50 and lunch on each day.

Payment can be made by credit card, cheque or invoice. To pay by credit card please fill in the card payment form on the course flyer. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Queen Mary University of London’. Please contact Cecily Cromby to arrange an invoice.


Not yet available.


For more information about the course please contact:

Cecily Cromby
Course Organiser
Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Queen Mary University of London
Charterhouse Square
London, EC1M 6BQ

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 6258
Fax: +44 (0)20 7882 6290

What the participants think

Here are some comments from the participants of the intensive courses that have been held over the past twenty years:

"I have really enjoyed the course and have a lot to take back to my own department. All aspects of screening were covered, from current to potential programmes. The speakers were very enthusiastic and informative and the course book is invaluable. It was also good to meet others from different backgrounds."

"I thoroughly enjoyed the course and felt that I got a lot of information that will be tremendously useful in my lab."

"The workshop on principles of screening was extremely helpful. It gave me an understanding of what goes on in our own 'black box'."

"The course gives us the latest information on antenatal screening and in addition it helps us understand a lot of the principles that up to now, even though they were used by us, weren't completely understood."

"The course was extremely interactive with great incentive to participate - one of the most stimulating and satisfying courses I have attended."

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Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Charterhouse Square, London, EC1M 6BQ