Researchers say preeclampsia rates have been increasing steadily largely because of growing rates of obesity and hypertension in the U.S.
The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery, but there could be a new test to optimize care in the future.
“The advantage of being able to predict who will get severe preeclampsia within two weeks allows us to better educate the patient. It allows us to better plan with the patient,” said Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Cedars-Sinai.
Her team found a specific imbalance of two placental proteins that could predict which women are at risk of developing a severe form of preeclampsia. Their study looked at a diverse group of women between 23 and 35 weeks in their pregnancy.
They already had some type of hypertension during pregnancy and were hospitalized because they were at high risk.
The test predicted whether or not the patient would develop severe preeclampsia with over 90 percent accuracy. The usual way of testing this is accurate less than 75 percent of the time.
“The importance of this finding really relates to the fact that preeclampsia, when it becomes severe, it's a very serious illness and is associated with adverse outcomes in both mom and baby,” Kilpatrick said.
If a patient tests positive and the hospital doesn't have the resources for her and her baby's care, the doctor would have time to transfer them to another hospital. If a patient tests negative, she says that could allow them to be discharged from the hospital.
The test is currently approved to be used in hospitals in Europe. It's only allowed to be used in the U.S. for research.
They hope these new findings could get Food and Drug Administration approval in the future.