Pregnancy Pre-Eclampsia Tests Approved in England

Tim Locke

May 11, 2016

The NHS in England is to fund two new blood tests to help rule out pre- eclampsia in pregnancy.

The tests detect changes in the blood that can mean the placenta is not developing properly.

New Blood Tests

NICE has assessed and approved the Triage PlGF test and the Elecsys immunoassay sFlt-1/PlGF ratio.

For now, their use is approved to rule out pre-eclampsia, not to diagnose it. NICE says more evidence is needed to approve them for diagnosis.

Consultant obstetrician Dr Jenny Myers helped compile the NICE guidance. In a statement she says: "At the moment women with suspected pre-eclampsia often have to come into hospital for 24 to 36 hours so we can make a diagnosis, but now, for women between 20th and 35th week of their pregnancy, these new tests may avoid the need for admission to hospital."

She continues: "The tests will be extremely valuable to help rule out pre-eclampsia before the 35th week of pregnancy, when approximately a third of women with pre-eclampsia are diagnosed.

"Doctors will need to be clear with patients, depending on which test is used, the result is only valid for 7 to 14 days and neither test definitively rules out pre-eclampsia for the rest of the pregnancy.

"However these tests represent a great stride forward in the management and treatment of pre-eclampsia."

Professor Carole Longson, director of the Centre for Health Technology at NICE, adds: "In recommending these tests the [assessment] committee highlighted the importance of making sure laboratories explain to clinicians if a test result doesn't rule-out pre-eclampsia they should not automatically diagnose women with pre-eclampsia.

"Instead doctors should follow existing NICE guidelines to make such a diagnosis. This is so that babies aren't delivered unnecessarily early as a result of these tests."

Two other tests were assessed by NICE and rejected at this stage.


Pre-eclampsia is a complication which can develop from around the 20th week of pregnancy, causing high blood pressure and protein in the urine, called proteinuria.

The condition affects up to 1 in 16 pregnant women.

Untreated, women can develop the potentially life-threatening condition eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are believed to be the second leading direct cause of deaths of mums-to-be in the UK.

Pre-eclampsia can lead to liver, kidney and lung failure, blood clotting problems, and to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke later in life.

High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia can lead to growth problems in the baby, premature birth or stillbirth.

Currently, the only cure for pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby.