The Amniocentesis Results: Investigation of Anxiety (ARIA) trial tested two hypotheses: first, that giving amniocentesis results out on a fixed date alters maternal anxiety during the waiting period, compared with a policy of telling parents that the result will be issued 'when available' (i.e. a variable date), and secondly, that issuing early results from a rapid molecular test alters maternal anxiety during the waiting period, compared with not receiving any results prior to the karyotype. The effects of the two interventions on anxiety 1 month after receiving karyotype results were also examined.
A multi-centre, randomised, controlled, open fixed sample, 2 x 2 factorial design trial, with equal randomisation.
Twelve hospitals in England offering amniocentesis as a diagnostic test for Down's syndrome.
A total of 226 women who had had an amniocentesis were randomised between June 2002 and July 2004. Eight women with abnormal results or test failure were excluded post-randomisation.
Issuing karyotype results on a prespecified fixed date, rather than issuing them as soon as they became available and issuing karyotype results alone, or subsequent to issuing results from a rapid molecular test for the most common chromosomal abnormalities.
Main outcome measures
Average anxiety during the waiting period, calculated using daily scores from the short version of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Recalled anxiety, measured 1 month after receiving karyotype results, using a rating scale. Anxiety at the 1-month follow-up, measured using the short-form STAI.
There was no evidence that giving out karyotype results on a fixed or on a variable date altered maternal anxiety during the waiting period. However, the analysis only had sufficient power to detect a moderate to large effect. Issuing early results from a partial, but rapid, test reduced maternal anxiety during the waiting period, compared with receiving only the full karyotype results. This was a moderate to large effect. In addition, group differences in recalled anxiety reflected fairly closely the differences in anxiety women had experienced while waiting for results. One month after receiving normal karyotype results, anxiety was low in all groups, but women who had been given rapid test results were more anxious than those who had not. This was a small to moderate effect.
Since there are no clear advantages in anxiety terms of issuing karyotype results as soon as they become available, or on a fixed date, women could be given a choice between them. Rapid testing was a beneficial addition to karyotyping, at least in the short term. This does not necessarily imply that early results would be preferred to comprehensive ones if women had to choose between them. There should be further research, including more qualitative studies, into the causes, characteristics and consequences of anxiety associated with prenatal testing. The effects of different testing regimes on short- and long-term anxiety, on the preferences of women and on the relationship between anxiety and preference should be investigated. More research is needed on the ways in which information might be used to minimise anxiety in different testing regimes. Further research is also required into the policy implications of incorporating individual preferences for different testing regimes into prenatal testing programmes.