According to a new study presented at an American College of Cardiology annual meeting, detecting preeclampsia risk is as easy as viewing the hand of a pregnant woman under a special microscope. The microscope reveals changes in capillaries just under the skin. The changes occur in women with a higher risk of preeclampsia. Current Doppler ultrasound screening for preeclampsia risk is only 50% accurate, but capillary screening could be accurate 87% of the time – a significant improvement.
Slightly more than 300 women were recruited for the study conducted by English researchers. Women were asked to undergone a painless, non-invasive procedure that involved placing their hand under a microscope. Capillary condition was used to determine preeclampsia risk and in 87% of the cases, preeclampsia was later diagnosed. The test can be completed as early as the 20th week of gestation with additional testing after the 27th week to verify the results.
The study, though relatively small, poses an important result for the prenatal medical community. The test is more accurate than Doppler ultrasound, but it can be used in conjunction with ultrasound to increase the accuracy, claims study authors. At this time additional research with a large study pool is required to reinforce the results of this small study.
Study authors believe the results of this study could lead to mass changes in obstetric care. According to Dr. Tarek Antonios, "If the results of this research are confirmed in a larger study, this technique could change clinical practice and be used as a novel way to predict preeclampsia so that more timely medical care can be provided to these pregnant women and prevent thousands of women and hundreds of thousands of infants from dying from this disease."
Though preeclampsia only affects 7% of the pregnant population, the condition can be life-threatening for mother and child. There is no cure for preeclampsia other than birth and the condition can present before the fetus is full-grown.
Source: American College of Cardiology, March 7, 2013. Novel marker helps identify preeclampsia risk in pregnancy.