Blood tests recommended by NICE to help early diagnosis of pre-eclampsia

on 28 March 2022

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published draft diagnostic guidance highlighting that midwives can use one of four blood tests to help diagnose preterm pre-eclampsia.

The blood test aims to diagnose pre-eclampsia early so decisions can be made for treatment plans, providing better care to mother and baby.

The NICE diagnostic advisory committee recommends four tests that can be used between 20 and 36 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy.

These tests will measure the levels of placental growth factor (PLGF) in the blood. PLGF is a protein that helps the development of new blood vessels in the placenta. If pre-eclampsia is potentially present, these levels can be abnormally low and could be an indicator that the placenta is not developing properly.

Tests were previously recommended to rule out pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. Now these tests can be used to diagnose pre-eclampsia that aims to lead better care for pregnant women and their baby.

Care could include referral to a specialist and hospital admission to monitor the mother and their unborn baby.

Evidence has shown that these tests did not lead to unnecessarily delivering babies early.

Chair of the NICE diagnostic advisory committee, Dr Mark Kroese, said: “The committee called for further research when it looked at this topic in 2016. Following some excellent research, we can now issue draft guidance for four tests which the NHS can use to help diagnose pre-eclampsia.”

Recommendations on pre-eclampsia in NICE’s antenatal care guidance includes measuring blood pressure and checking the urine for protein at each antenatal visit. The guidance also recommends antenatal appointments are booked by 10 weeks of pregnancy to determine the risk of pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia affects up to 6% of pregnancies, with severe pre-eclampsia developing around 1-2% of pregnancies in the UK.

A consultation on the draft recommendation is now open and comments must be submitted before Tuesday 19 April 2022 through the NICE website.