It has been revealed today that a same-day test for pre-eclampsia is being rolled out across the NHS in England for pregnant women, within the next two years. The blood test is recognised as placental growth factor (PLGF) testing and will be the first of its kind in the world to carry out the test in the same day for this condition.
The life-threatening condition affects both women and their babies, where they often spend large amounts of time in hospital. As well as providing a quick diagnosis for patients, hospital visits will be reduced, which will free up clinics and help with staff workloads.
Thousands of pregnant women have already benefited from this, with three-quarters of maternity units using the tests. Some of the other benefits of the test include relieving stress and anxiety for those given the all clear, and allowing treatment to quickly start for those who need it. It will also allow more procedures to be carried out more effectively and efficiently.
NHS Clinical Director for maternity and women’s health, Matthew Jolly, said: “Pre-eclampsia is a life-threatening condition for both mum and baby if left untreated, and this is why the NHS takes every precaution possible when soon-to-be mums have some of the early signs like high blood pressure.
“This new way of testing means we can rule out the condition in a much quicker and easier way – it removes the stress that comes with the uncertainty around not having a diagnosis and will reassure thousands of pregnant women every year.”
NHS Director of innovation, research and life sciences Matt Whitty, said: “This test is quick and easy and can rule out a condition that has for a long time been the of cause such stress to tens of thousands of pregnant women every year, whether they have pre-eclampsia or not.
“This latest innovation will benefit thousands of patients who have until now been put through extensive testing and possible hospital stays as the NHS continues to deliver on ambitious Long Term Plan commitments, to provide patients with the most up to date tech, as quickly as possible.”
As many as 65,000 pregnant women per year are admitted and monitored for the condition for up to three days. The women who are experiencing symptoms, such as high blood pressure and headaches - which usually occur in the second half of pregnancy - will be advised by their GP or midwife to attend hospital for the blood test as part of a full clinical assessment. This also includes women with protein found in their urine.
Treatment for high blood pressure usually involves medication or in extreme cases, anticonvulsants to prevent fits if the baby is due.
It forms part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s goals to invest in more world-class treatments and cutting-edge technologies.
Although most cases are mild, some have proven to be fatal, which has meant that clinicians have had to carry out additional checks with suspected cases previously.
Professor Jenny Myers of Obstetrics and Maternal Medicine, at The University of Manchester, and a Consultant Obstetrician at Saint Mary’s Hospital, said: “I’m a real advocate for the test as it makes such a big difference to women. It transforms care in lots of situations.
“In terms of ruling out pre-eclampsia, there will be lots of women that come to us with a high blood pressure reading at some point during their pregnancy, and although this is a potential sign of pre-eclampsia, in many cases the woman isn’t developing pre-eclampsia. If the PLGF-based test is normal, then we can be confident that pre-eclampsia is not developing over the next 7-14 days, and we can safely let that woman go back to her routine antenatal surveillance. Most importantly we can reassure her that everything is looking fine.”