The new test may help predict a pregnant woman's risk for preeclampsia much earlier than current methods.
Preeclampsia affects up to 10 percent of all pregnant women and is one of the main culprits for complication during the second half of pregnancy. The condition, which is associated with high blood pressure and an increased amount of protein in the urine, is often diagnosed too late and, in the most severe cases, can be fatal for both mother and child.
"The main problem with preeclampsia is that clinical presentation is variable and symptoms are often too nonspecific to allow a clear diagnosis," said Dr. Stefan Verlohren, author of a new study in which researchers found that a blood test, which can be used even in the absence of any symptoms, can now be used to predict whether a pregnant woman will develop preeclampsia or the typical complications associated with it.
More than 1,200 women with a high risk of preeclampsia, or presenting with clinical symptoms of the condition, were evaluated as part of the study. All participants underwent blood tests to determine the ratio of serum sFlt-1 to PlGF—two proteins produced by the placenta that play an important role in the development of the condition.
A sFlt-1 to PlGF ratio of 38 or lower was shown to have a negative predictive value of close to 100 percent for ruling out preeclampsia within one week. A value of more than 38 had a positive predictive value of 36.7% for predicting preeclampsia over the next four weeks, and a predictive value of 65.5% for predicting maternal or fetal complications over the next four weeks.
"The ratio of serum sFlt-1 to PlGF can help us to better predict the risk of disease onset or its progression," said Dr. Verlohren. "This allows us to avoid preterm deliveries and delays in starting treatment. The main thing, however, is the fact that it is now possible to reliably rule out disease onset for one week; this will considerably reduce anxiety for the mother."