Skip to main content

Obstetrics: Screening

Volume 472: debated on Monday 25 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of adding screening for vasa praevia to standard prenatal testing; (188233)

(2) what assessment he has made of the feasibility of adding screening for vasa praevia to standard prenatal testing;

(3) how many people died from vasa praevia in each year since 2001.

[holding answer 22 February 2008]: Routine screening for vasa praevia is not available in hospitals in England. This is because it is a technically difficult condition to detect, even for a highly skilled ultrasonographer with the appropriate specialist equipment (for example, a colour Doppler scanner). Therefore, routine screening for vasa praevia is not currently advocated by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) or recommended by the National Screening Committee (NSC). Should the RCOG change its advice we will consider this and refer it to the NSC.

The total number of deaths involving mention of vasa praevia on the death certificate in England and Wales for 2001 to 2005 (the most recent years for which figures are available) is shown in the following table.

All these deaths were in neonates—that is, babies under 28 days of age:

Neonatal deaths












1. Figures for 2001-05 were extracted using the International Classification of Diseases ICD 10th revision code P02.6

2. The database of deaths in England and Wales was searched for deaths in 2001-05 with any mention of the ICD-10 codes 069.4, ‘Labour and delivery complicated by vasa praevia’ (maternal code) or P02.6 ‘Fetus and Newborn affected by other and unspecified conditions of umbilical cord’. The text of the certificates with P02.6 was then searched for the term ‘vasa praevia’.

3. Data on stillbirths have not been included.


Office for National Statistics