Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis (also referred to as amniotic fluid test or AFT), is a medical procedure used in prenatal diagnosis of chromosomal abnormalities and fetal infections, in which a small amount of amniotic fluid, which contains fetal tissues, is extracted from the amnion or amniotic sac surrounding a developing fetus, and the fetal DNA is examined for genetic abnormalities.

Before the start of the procedure, a local anesthetic can be given to the mother in order to relieve the pain felt during the insertion of the needle used to withdraw the fluid. After the local is in effect, a needle is usually inserted through the mother's abdominal wall, then through the wall of the uterus, and finally into the amniotic sac.


With the aid of ultrasound-guidance, a physician punctures the sac in an area away from the fetus and extracts approximately 20 ml of amniotic fluid. After the amniotic fluid is extracted, the fetal cells are separated from the sample. The cells are grown in a culture medium, then fixed and stained. Under a microscope the chromosomes are examined for abnormalities. The most common abnormalities detected are Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18), and Turner syndrome (monosomy X).

Amniocentesis is performed between the 15th-20th week of pregnancy; performing this test early can lead to injury to the baby's limbs. Most people do the test during the 18th week of pregnancy. The term "early amniocentesis" is sometimes used to describe use of the process between weeks 11 and 13.

Serious complications can result in miscarriage. Other possible complications include preterm labor and delivery, respiratory distress, postural deformities, fetal trauma and alloimmunisation of the mother (rhesus disease). In contrast, the risk of miscarriage from chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is believed to be approximately 1 in 100; although CVS may be done up to four weeks earlier, and may be preferable if the possibility of genetic defects is thought to be higher.

Recent studies have discovered that amniotic fluid can be a rich source of multipotent mesenchymal, hematopoietic, neural, epithelial, and endothelial stem cells. A potential benefit of using amniotic stem cells over those obtained from embryos is that they side-step ethical concerns among pro-life activists by obtaining pluripotent lines of undifferentiated cells without harm to a fetus or destruction of an embryo.

article source: wikipedia 

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