A new blood test may help
doctors determine if a woman will develop a severe form of high blood pressure,
known as pre-eclampsia, during pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia can damage the
kidneys, liver and brain, and lead to foetal complications such as premature
delivery, low birth weight and stillbirth, experts say.
The new test checks level
of a protein called placental growth factor (PlGF), and was assessed in 625
About 61% of participants who
developed pre-eclampsia all had low levels of PlGF, researchers said.
They also found that if a
woman's PlGF levels fell below a certain threshold before her 35th week of
pregnancy, her baby was likely to be delivered within 14 days.
In a normal
pregnancy, levels of PlGF remain more stable, the researchers said.
The study, partly funded by
Alere, the test's manufacturer, was published in the journal Circulation.
"The test is designed
to differentiate women with pre-eclampsia from those with high blood pressure
alone," Lucy Chappell, clinical senior lecturer in obstetrics at King's
College in London, said in a news release.
"Current tests for the
condition only detect that it's happening rather than predicting it, and by
that time the disease has progressed and has likely already caused organ damage."
By using the test to
identify women at high risk for pre-eclampsia, "doctors can better monitor
and treat the blood pressure," Chappell said.
"It also prevents
unnecessary hospitalisations of those who are not likely to develop
Two other experts said the test might hold promise.
Dr Jill Rabin is head of
urogynaecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Centre in New Hyde Park in New York. She
said that although more high-quality trials are needed to confirm the test's
value, "this study clearly demonstrates the potential diagnostic
utility" of the PlGF screen for pregnant women.
And Dr Jennifer Wu, an
ob/gyn at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City said that although the test
"is currently not available in the US, it holds promise in predicting
patients who will develop pre-eclampsia."
The March of Dimes has more