Researchers investigate more accurate method to predict preeclampsia risk
Researchers have found a new marker that predicts the risk of developing preeclampsia during pregnancy. According to these findings, women who have a reduced number of capillaries under the skin during pregnancy are more likely to develop this complication that can be life-threatening. It seems that measuring skin capillary density is a better predictor than Doppler ultrasound to identify the risk of preeclampsia. The results of this study are presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 62nd Annual Scientific Session.
British researchers conducted a study to determine the number of capillaries from 305 patients in the first trimester of pregnancy. A similar study was conducted in 2001 by the same research team but included women with preeclampsia in late pregnancy. Then it was noted that women who had fewer capillaries had a higher risk of preeclampsia. It was found that women who developed preeclampsia later in pregnancy have a decreased number of capillaries since 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The study showed that test accuracy is 87% which is a significant improvement over the current screening test. Furthermore it seems that repeating the test at 27 weeks of pregnancy, the risk of preeclampsia is identified in 75% of cases and the risk of false positive results is much lower. Tarek Antonios, MD, St. George’s, University of London, and the study’s lead investigator, said that the predictive value of the test far exceeds that of Doppler ultrasound, which is currently used to detect preeclampsia. He added that if further studies confirm the results in the future, this new technique could change clinical practice and thus thousands of women could benefit from early medical care to prevent the newborns from dying because of the disease. “We found that if we examine the microcirculation and measure the changes in capillaries we can predict preeclampsia in a more accurate way and this is exciting news,” Dr. Antonios said.
Preeclampsia is a life-threatening obstetrical condition that occurs after 20 weeks and is manifested by hypertension, proteinuria (protein in urine) and edema of lower limbs. Preeclampsia may leads to eclampsia, which is a condition that, in addition to the ones listed, also includes seizures. Nobody knows exactly why it occurs, but there are several assumptions. There seems to be some abnormal blood vessels in the placenta that causes vasoconstriction and thus on the one hand hypertension occurs, and on the other hand there is a restriction of blood flow to the fetus. Preeclampsia is diagnosed at present with Doppler ultrasound ( which investigates uterine artery), but it appears that the accuracy of the technique is 50%.