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New test predicts pregnancy problems long before they happen

ORLANDO, Sept. 26 For the first time there is a test that can identify more than 90 percent of pregnant women who will develop high blood pressure months before they have symptoms that standard tests can detect, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's 56th Annual High Blood Pressure Research Conference.

The test can identify pregnant women who later will develop hypertensive complications in pregnancy. These include gestational high blood pressure and preeclampsia.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 7 percent of first-time mothers and 1 to 2 percent of mothers having subsequent pregnancies develop preeclampsia. Usually, a pregnant woman with preeclampsia develops dangerously high blood pressure and begins excreting protein in the urine. In some cases, the condition may progress to eclampsia, a series of potentially fatal seizures. In cases where the condition does not progress to eclampsia, children born to mothers with preeclampsia may be born prematurely or have low birth weight.

Preeclampsia is still one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. Known risks for preeclampsia include: diabetes, pre-existing hypertension, kidney disease, and having previously had the condition during an earlier pregnancy.

"The only way to cure preeclampsia is to eliminate its cause, which is pregnancy itself," says lead author Ramon C. Hermida, Ph.D., director of the bioengineering and chronobiology laboratories and a professor at the University of Vigo in Vigo, Spain. "In most cases, that leads to delivering the baby early. Therefore, it is important to focus on prevention."

The test, called the tolerance-hyperbaric test (THT), can be used as early as the first trimester of pregnancy to identify 93 percent of women at high risk for blood pressure complications several months later. It's more accurate as time goes on, with the sensitivity the ability to correctly identify those who will develop the
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Contact: Maggie Francis
maggie.francis@heart.org
214-706-1397
American Heart Association
26-Sep-2002


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