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Non Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) is currently the most accurate screening test for Down’s Syndrome

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Harmony Test Summary

  • Currently the best screening test for Down’s syndrome
  • Can be done from just 10 weeks of pregnancy
  • Results in 3-5 working days in 95% of cases
  • Optional gender reveal from 10 weeks
  • Performed together with ultrasound scan at the same appointment
  • Not able to exclude physical (structural) anomalies
  • In 3% of cases there is no-call result
  • If the NIPT is high probability, further referral/testing will be needed 
  • We recommend performing the Harmony Scan at 10 weeks along with our Early Fetal scan
  • Take the Harmony Test at City Ultrasound at a competitive price

What is NIPT?  What is Harmomy test?

Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) is a screening method for determining the chance that a baby will be born with Down’s syndrome or other specific chromosomal anomalies. NIPT is based on the assessment of small DNA fragments from a baby’s placenta (named ‘cell-free DNA’ or ‘cfDNA’) that are disseminated in the blood of every pregnant mother. Placental cfDNA is usually identical to the DNA of the baby and testing it provides an opportunity for early detection of particular chromosomal anomalies without harming the baby.

Harmony Test is our single and carefully selected NIPT laboratory provider. Harmony Prenatal Test is a trade name of the cfDNA test.

Although cfDNA is a relatively new genetic test, it has been proven to be superior to any other screening tests for Down’s Syndrome, including the Combined Screening Test (CST) used by the NHS. However, NIPT can detect a relatively small proportion (about 15%) of all fetal anomalies, because the vast majority of fetal anomalies are physical (structural) and not chromosomal. 

NIPT is a screening test, meaning that NIPT cannot give a definitive answer about whether a baby has Down’s syndrome or other tested chromosomal conditions. If the results are positive (high chance) follow-up invasive testing is needed to get a definite diagnosis. Any invasive testing carries a small risk of miscarriage.

What are the advantages of NIPT?

The main advantages of NIPT are related to Down’s syndrome (T21) screening.

They are:

  • early testing from 10 weeks
  • high negative predictive value for T21
  • high detection rate for T21
  • low false-positive rate for T21

What are the limitations of NIPT?

As any screening test NIPT has some disadvantages.

Here there are the most significant NIPT limitations:

  • relative high cost of the cfDNA test
  • whilst a very sensitive screening test, it is not diagnostic
  • cannot detect ANY physical (structural) anomaly
  • very limited effectiveness for the babies that have increased nuchal translucency (NT) thickness or physical (structural) anomaly
  • processing time of up to a week (or longer in 5% of the cases)
  • failure to return a result in up to 3% of women  (‘no-call’ results)

NIPT is currently the best screening test for Down’s Syndrome and its main limitation is that it reliably screens only for Down’s Syndrome

Performance of the NIPT for Down’s Syndrome in numbers:

  • the most clinically important feature of NIPT is its high negative predictive value (NPV). Negative predictive value indicates how likely screen ‘negative’ babies in reality have no Downs syndrome. High negative predictive value provides reassurance regarding the question of how likely a baby with low chance result has no Downs syndrome. For Harmony test calculated NPV is at least 99.3% and generally greater than 99.9%
  • test for Down’s syndrome is 96% accurate in most pregnant women. This means the test will identify 96 out of 100 women who have a baby with Down’s syndrome. The test is even more accurate in women with a higher than normal chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome
  • Although the test is very accurate, sometimes it shows a positive result when the baby does not in fact have Down’s syndrome. Around 20% (1 in 5) of positive results are false in this way
  • high detection rate for T21 >99%
  • low false-positive rate for T21 ~0.02%

NIPT for sex chromosome abnormalities and microdeletions

Some biotechnological companies/manufacturers of NIPT have launched commercially available products aiming to screen for sex chromosome abnormalities and microdeletions (including 22q11 del).

Although the tests are technologically advanced, the effectiveness of those extended panel options has not been confirmed by appropriate scientific research and at this moment their clinical use is controversial. 

As technology improves and the cost of NIPT decreases, we expect that cfDNA test will become clinically useful not only for Down’s, Edwards and Patau syndromes, but also for many more chromosomal and genetic conditions. However, at present most experts agree that the time has not come yet.

Which chromosomal conditions does the Harmony test at City Ultrasound cover?

City Ultrasound offers NIPT for:

  • Down’s syndrome (T21)
  • Edwards syndrome (T18)
  • Patau syndrome (T13)
  • fetal sexing

City Ultrasound does not offer NIPT for:

  • sex chromosome abnormalities
  • 22q11 deletion
  • other microdeletions 
  • triploidy

When is the best time to perform the NIPT scan?

We are aware that many of NIPT providers advise performing the NIPT at 10 weeks together with a viability scan. The advantage of this approach is performing the test as early as possible.

There are some limitations to this approach:

  1. The scan, which aims to screen for structural anomalies can only screen for 10 severe anomalies at 10 weeks. From 12 weeks we can screen for the majority of structural anomalies as well as congenital heart diseases. Statistically, the chance of a baby having structural anomalies is much higher than its chance of Down’s syndrome
  2. It is impossible to assess nuchal translucency (NT) thickness, which is an independent nonspecific marker for fetal wellbeing. A baby with increased NT has an increased chance for chromosomal anomalies, even if NIPT results are negative and invasive testing is offered

There can be unfortunate situations in which a mother has taken the NIPT, which was negative and ‘reassuring’. However, the baby has other significant health problems, which are diagnosed just a few days or weeks later.

As such, we recommend waiting for to 12 weeks before taking the NIPT test. However, if you wuld like an earlier reassurance it can also be beneficial coming in at 10 weeks. Book our Harmony + Anomaly Scan now (£490)

Harmony Prenatal Test is City Ultrasound selected NIPT

There are many different brands of cfDNA tests on the private NIPT London market. We believe that to make the correct NIPT choice can be very confusing for the parents and difficult even for medical professionals.

We have evaluated and compared different NIPT brands available in London and have chosen Harmony Prenatal Test as our exclusive provider. We have extensive clinical experience of using Harmony.

The facts about Harmony:

  • the test was developed in US by Ariosa Diagnostics
  • It is one of the most popular NIPT tests around the world
  • In London the test is now being undertaken by TDL (The Doctors Laboratory)
  • Relocation to London resulted in reduction of Harmony Test cost and decrease in turnaround time

Learn More

How long does Harmony Test results take?

Turnaround time of Harmony Test in London is about 3-5 working days.

From our clinic the sample is securely taken by special medical courier service.

The blood sample is analysed in TDL (The Doctors Laboratory). TDL Genetic is located in  high-tech establishment on Euston Road just few minutes ride from our centre.

See below information about Harmony test no-call results and need to redraw the blood sample (no additional cost).

Early Fetal Test: Early Fetal Scan and NIPT at 10 weeks of pregnancy

We introduce Early Baby Test; a new screening test which organically includes Early Baby Scan (Early Fetal Scan) and Harmony (NIPT).

This 1st trimester reassurancr package provides a unique 10 weeks screening solution by combination of two innovative tests where ultrasound & NIPT are working together to exclude significant proportion of physical (structural) and chromosomal anomalies (T21, T18, T13) for your baby.

How does the Early Fetal Test work?

  • You book appointment for the package at 10 weeks via our online booking system.
  • You do not need to have full urinary bladder for the scan.
  • Firstly, we perform Early Fetal Scan and will confirm gestational age and well-being of the baby, we will perform top-to-toe examination of fetal organs with special attention to heart and brain/spine. We will measure nuchal translucency (NT) thickness if  you come in at 11-13 weeks.
  • If the scan does not indicate any causes for concern we will inform you about normal findings and reassure you. We will write you ultrasound report and send you special access code for your baby’s images on safe cloud storage.
  • Secondly, we will give you full explanation regarding Harnomy Test (NIPT). We will take your blood sample for Harmony Test. You do not need to have any specific preparation for the test. The sample will be taken by courier same day or next morning to TDL.
  • TDL (The Doctors Laboratory) is our NIPT London provider, it is situated on Euston road. The samples are collected by a special TDL courier meaning the lab will be able to start processing your sample the next working day.
  • TDL will send us result and we will contact you immediately. NIPT is a time consuming test and results can take up to a week to come back to us.

How do we perform NIPT and deliver the results?

We will provide you information about the test and will take the time to answer any questions you may have. You will need to carefully read and sign the TDL consent form.

Initirally, we perform scan in order to cofirm the normal development of the pregnancy, number of babies and pregnancy’s viability. If you choose our recommended Early Baby Test, we will perform a top-to-toe examination of the baby at this stave, to exclude severe physical anomalies, which the Harmony Test is unable to detect.

If the scan results are normal we will proceed to take your blood sample. There is no need to freeze the blood sample and the tube will be taken by special courier to TDL.

After few days, (usually less than one week) TDL will securely send us result and we will contact you by phone as soon as possible. We will also send you a PDF copy of the via Tricefy.

Who is NOT eligible for Harmony Test?

The Harmony Prenatal Test is not validated and can not be use for use in pregnancies with:

  • a history of or active malignancy
  • a pregnancy with fetal demise
  • a pregnancy with triplets, quadruplets or higher order
  • a history of bone marrow or organ transplants
  • mosaicism for the parents
  • maternal aneuploidy (chromosomal abnormality)
  • in women under the age of 18

Please note that IVF pregnancies are eligible for Harmony Test

What to do if NIPT results shows high chance for chromosomal anomaly?

In case the NIPT result is high chance for Down’s syndrome or other chromosomal anomalies we will arrange a referral to your regional NHS Fetal Medicine Unit for further counselling and possible diagnostic test such as CVS or Amniocentesis.

Alternatively we can refer you to private Fetal Medicine Consultant (consultation cost is not included in our service).

What are the reasons for Harmony Test false positive results?

Although the Harmony Test is very accurate, around 20% (1 in 5) of positive high chance for Downs syndrome results are false and the baby does not in fact have Down’s syndrome.

Biological factors with the potential to cause discordance between cfDNA results and baby’s genetic status include uncommon conditions like confined placental mosaicism, fetal mosaicism, maternal chromosome changes, and the presence of an unrecognised, nonviable (or viable) twin.

What does it mean Harmony test no-call results?

Most pregnant women receive complete results from cfDNA testing, indicating either a high or low probability for aneuploidy.

In about 3% of cases we will need to contact you without giving you a test result and ask to come for additional sample of blood or to give us more information about your pregnancy or medical history. There will be no extra cost for additional blood test.

It is because in small proportion of blood specimens submitted after 10 weeks gestation there is insufficient amount of baby’s cfDNA. This situation called low fetal fraction. The chance to have low fetal fraction is getting higher with increased maternal body weight. There are other rare factors making NITP results inconclusive.

In the case of Harmony Test no-call results we will discuss with you options of alternative screening and/or referral for diagnostic testing if you either decline a second attempt at NIPT or do not receive a result after two attempts. 

Our Harmony test no-call results refund policy

In the case of inconclusive results for Downs syndrome or trisomies 18 or 13 we are committed to refund your for the Harmony Test cost.

Because the Harmony Test is being undertaken by third party – TDL (The Doctors Laboratory) we will contact them to arrange the refund. The refund will be for Harmony Test only (we can not compensate cost of ultrasound) and will be processed in a few business days. 

There is no reimbursement for inconclusive fetal sex results. In those rare cases we will offer you anatomy and gender scan for reduced cost and will discuss the findings and need for further referrals.

Harmony Scan + Test Cost and Refunds

Unfortunately clinically validated NIPT tests are time consuming and very expensive. City Ultrasound Harmony Test cost is very competitive. We have made maximum effort to make the Harmony Scan affordable.

The Harmony scan (NIPT test Harmony) can only be done from a gestational age of 10 weeks – TDL do not accept any blood samples for patients below that GA. We reccomend to wait until a gestational age of 10 weeks + 2 days to perform the Harmony Scan + Test to avoid coming in more than once.

In case you booked for Harmony Scan + Test, but the ultrasound scan indicated a GA below 10 weeks, we will have to rearrange for you to come in at a later date for an additional cost of £50 to cover for our staffing cost.

In case of No-Call results from the test (about 3% of the cases), we will be happy to schedule in another time to draw another blood sample free of charge. In case of a second No-Call result, we will refund the Harmony Test portion of the appointment charge as per below. If, upon discussion with our clinician, you decide that the Harmony Test is not the right decision for you, we will refund the Harmony Test proportion of the appointment and will only charge for the scan.


Further reading about NIPT

Harmony Test: Advanced screening for Downs Syndrome