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How Early Screening for Pre-Eclampsia Risk Improves Birth Outcomes

October 31, 2014

"As well as being a major cause of fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality, pre-eclampsia is also a major threat to maternal health and morbidity."

Pre-eclampsia is estimated to affect more than 8 million women worldwide every year. As well as being a major cause of fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality, pre-eclampsia is also a major threat to maternal health. Left untreated, pre-eclampsia can lead to serious or even fatal complications. But new screening options from PerkinElmer allow women at high risk of developing pre-eclampsia to be identified earlier in their pregnancy, ideally when there still remains an opportunity to impact their course of care.

What is Pre-Eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a disorder that originates in the placenta very early in the pregnancy and symptoms generally develop after the 20th week of pregnancy. The condition tends to progress rapidly and can lead to eclampsia—or convulsions—posing serious health implications for mother and baby.

Some symptoms of pre-eclampsia may include:

  • High blood pressure (≥140/90 mmHg)
  • Swelling in the face and hands (and feet, although swollen feet are common during pregnancy)
  • Weight gain of more than five pounds in a week
  • Other problems such as headache, blurred vision, abdominal pain and nausea

The only cure for pre-eclampsia is the delivery of the baby. Early onset pre-eclampsia results in the delivery of the baby before 34 weeks' gestation and can be associated with severe complications for both mom and baby.

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Why Early Screening is Important

Learning she's at increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia allows expectant mothers to seek out methods for delaying or even preventing the onset of disease. This can be particularly important for preventing premature births, which put the healthy development of babies at risk. The longer a woman is able to carry her pregnancy, the better the outcome for her child.

Although there is no cure for preeclampsia, medical research suggests that some steps may be taken during pregnancy to prevent or lessen the symptoms. Early detection of the disease allows a valuable window of opportunity for vigilance and intervention. First trimester identification of risk for preeclampsia enables:

  • Early identification of an asymptomatic high-risk group of patients
  • Increased surveillance of high-risk pregnancies
  • Wider-ranging intervention possibilities, including increased monitoring, modified activity, and medications, including aspirin

What Are The Options for Early Screening

Traditionally, the only known screening method has been the evaluation of maternal history, which detects just 30 percent of eventual cases. By combining this history with other serum and ultrasound markers, studies have shown detection rates increasing to 93 percent or higher.

Today in the U.S., PerkinElmer offers a pre-eclampsia screening service to physicians called PreeclampsiaScreen I T1, through our PerkinElmer Labs in Melville, NY. It is the first screening test in the U.S. to measure three biochemical markers in the mother's serum associated with pre-eclampsia: PAPP-A (pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A); PlGF (placental growth factor) and AFP (alpha fetoprotein). Together, these three biochemical markers can contribute to accurate prediction of risk for early onset pre-eclampsia. Physicians may choose to add additional biophysical measurements to the screening test in order to increase its detection rate – these include Mean arterial pressure (MAP) and/or Uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index (UtAD-PI).

For labs outside of the U.S., PerkinElmer has launched the first placental growth factor (PlGF) assay for 1st trimester screening of early onset pre-eclampsia. The PlGF in vitro diagnostic assay runs on our DELFIA ® platforms that are already established in laboratories and clinics performing aneuploidy screening.


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