Removing race adjustment from common prenatal test

February 3, 2023

Removing race adjustment from common prenatal test

Dr. Shani Delaney, an associate professor of OB-GYN and maternal fetal medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, is a senior author of a study that found that results of a prenatal test used for over five decades should not be adjusted based on a patient's race.

Researchers examined the screening that measures the level of alpha-fetoprotein, or AFP, in the blood of a pregnant patient. This is used to identify a baby's risk of conditions such as Down syndrome and spina bifida. In analyzing AFP results, medical professionals results have traditionally scaled back the concentration of the protein by 10% for Black patients.

"Historically, we've used race in an incorrect way for evaluating prenatal screening and risks to the fetus, and in the past couple of years have really re-evaluated how we perform our genetic and prenatal screening here at UW Medicine to more accurately and correctly use race in our evaluations for our patients," Delaney said. "Similar to really every lab across the country, we had been adjusting the blood tests and blood test results for our prenatal screening differently, whether a patient was marked off as being Black or not being Black. Historically, this is something that has been done for decades based on data that is honestly 50 years old now."

In a news release, learn more about the prenatal test at the center of the study.

Download broadcast-ready soundbites on race as a factor in healthcare.

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