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Trust introduces new highly accurate test for pre-eclampsia

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A new test that predicts pre-eclampsia risk with a high level of accuracy has been given the green light to be used as standard clinical practice in one of the UK’s biggest acute hospital trusts.

The blood test shows with almost 100% accuracy whether a pregnant woman will not develop pre-eclampsia within the following seven days.

“We have shown that we can virtually eliminate all those patients who have no risk”

Manu Vatish

The test is being introduced at John Radcliffe Hospital, which is part of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

It measures the ratio of two placental factors – maternal serum soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase (sFlt-1) and placental growth factor (PlGF) – that are released into the mother’s blood.

The trust noted that previously there was no accurate method to determine who will get the condition.

Currently, any patients with suspected pre-eclampsia were often admitted, sometimes for several days, with diagnosis based on excluding all the other possible causes of high blood pressure and protein in the urine through a series of tests that take time and can cause anxiety.

The test was developed by Roche Diagnostics, which has funded a trial conducted at the Women’s Centre at the John Radcliffe.

The trial results were successful and the response from maternity staff so enthusiastic that the test has been accepted as routine clinical practice, according to the trust.

“The benefits we have demonstrated can be expanded across the UK”

Tim Marsh

The trial, which is currently awaiting publication, was led by Dr Manu Vatish, a consultant obstetrician and senior clinical fellow at the University of Oxford.

He said: “The stress experienced by mums and their families can be put into context when we see that almost 70% of patients admitted don’t actually have pre-eclampsia.

“We have shown that we can virtually eliminate all those patients who have no risk of developing pre-eclampsia, allowing us to focus our attention on those with an increased risk,” he said.

Dr Vatish added: “The standard clinical tests for pre-eclampsia, which work on the assumption that all patients are at risk, are fairly good at predicting which women could go on to develop the disease.

“Using the new test together with standard clinical practice, this figure rises to 100%,” he noted.

“This approach – using the test in conjunction with standard clinical practice – allows us effectively to segregate patients into those who have virtually no risk of getting the disease and those with an increased risk,” he said.

Tim James, the trust’s lead biomedical scientist, said: “The beauty of these tests is that they are not reliant on analysers that are only available in Oxford.

“The instruments are available at many hospital sites, meaning that the benefits we have demonstrated can be expanded across the UK relatively rapidly and easily, and pregnant women everywhere should be able to benefit,” he said.

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