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Amniocentesis, the withdrawal of a sample of amniotic fluid that surrounds the embryo in the womb of a pregnant woman for subsequent diagnosis of chromosomal and biochemical defects. A small sample of fluid (about 10ml) is removed by inserting a needle through the abdomen to pierce the amniotic sac. Since amniotic fluid contains cells shed from the embryo, cell cultures allow chromosome patterns to be examined for abnormalities such as Down's syndrome. Biochemical analysis may reveal spina bifida. Amniocentesis is performed in the 16th week of pregnancy, allowing just enough time for culturing & testing to permit an abortion during the 20th-21st week.
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