Ultrasonographic Soft Markers of Aneuploidy in Second Trimester: Are We Lost?

Sameer Raniga, MD, DNB; P.D. Desai, MD; Hetal Parikh, MD

In This Article


Chromosomal abnormalities occur in 0.1% to 0.2% of live births, and the most common clinically significant aneuploidy among live-born infants is Down syndrome (trisomy 21). Other sonographically detectable aneuploidies include trisomy 13, 18, monosomy X, and triploidy. Second-trimester ultrasound scan detects 2 types of sonographic markers suggestive of aneuploidy. Markers for major fetal structural abnormalities comprise the first type; the second type of markers are known as "soft markers" of aneuploidy. These latter markers are nonspecific, often transient, and can be readily detected during the second-trimester ultrasound. The most commonly studied soft markers of aneuploidy include a thickened nuchal fold, rhizomelic limb shortening, mild fetal pyelectasis, echogenic bowel, and echogenic intracardiac focus and choroid plexus cyst. There is a great deal of interest in the ultrasound detection of aneuploidy, as evidenced by the large number of publications in the literature on this topic.

Unfortunately, studies evaluating the significance of the soft markers of aneuploidy vary widely and show contradictory results. In this article, we review the most common ultrasonographic soft markers used to screen aneuploidy and discuss ultrasonographic technique and measurement criteria for the detection of soft markers. We also review the clinical relevance of soft markers to aneuploidy risk assessment and evidence-based strategies for the management of affected pregnancies with each of these markers in light of current literature.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.