Blood Test May Help Rule Out Preeclampsia
Women with suspected pre-eclampsia are often hospitalized
By Amy Norton
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A new blood test might help doctors identify pregnant women who are unlikely to develop a dangerous complication called pre-eclampsia, despite having suspicious signs or symptoms.
That's the finding of a study in the Jan. 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Experts said that if the results are confirmed by further research, the test could go a long way in ruling out pre-eclampsia in women with suspected cases.
That's important because right now, women with possible pre-eclampsia are usually hospitalized for close monitoring, said Dr. Ellen Seely, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
A reliable test that could spare women that hospital stay would have a "substantial impact," said Seely, who wrote an editorial published with the study.
Anywhere from 2 percent to 8 percent of pregnant women develop pre-eclampsia, according to the March of Dimes.
The condition, which occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, is marked by high blood pressure and other signs that a woman's organs -- such as the kidneys and liver -- aren't functioning properly. Symptoms can include protein in the urine, as well as severe headaches and vision problems.
Detecting pre-eclampsia early is "essential," because it carries serious risks for mothers and babies, said Dr. Stefan Verlohren, senior researcher on the new study and a consultant in maternal/fetal medicine at Charite University Medicine, in Berlin, Germany.
Pre-eclampsia can lead to preterm delivery and low birth weight. It also raises a woman's risk of seizures and coma, and placental abruption -- where the placenta separates from the uterus, sometimes causing life-threatening bleeding.
The problem, Verlohren said, is that it can be difficult to know when a woman is developing pre-eclampsia. For example, women who show elevated blood pressure later in pregnancy could be in the early stages of pre-eclampsia, or they could have isolated high blood pressure.
So his team looked at whether a blood test could help predict whether women with suspected pre-eclampsia would be diagnosed with the disorder in the next week.