A simple blood test conducted during the first trimester of pregnancy may be able to identify women at risk for preeclampsia, a common and dangerous complication of late pregnancy, say researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The prospective study found that women who eventually developed preeclampsia, which is also called toxemia, were more likely to have had reduced blood levels of a protein called SHBG, a known marker for insulin resistance, early in pregnancy. The report appears in the April issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
"This study showed that a risk factor that can be detected many weeks before symptoms appear may be able to predict who will develop preeclampsia," says Myles Wolf, MD, of the MGH Renal Unit, the paper?s first author. "Our study raises the possibility of developing new approaches to diagnosis and intervention, which eventually could lead to preventive treatments."
"Preeclampsia can be devastating, and unfortunately we do not have a way to treat women with this condition," says author Ravi Thadhani, MD, MPH, of the MGH Renal Unit, the study?s senior author. "Finding a way to predict who will develop preeclampsia is a necessary first step to testing new therapies."
Preeclampsia is a condition in which a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure and other metabolic abnormalities. If not appropriately managed, a woman with preeclampsia can proceed to eclampsia -- characterized by seizures -- or liver or kidney failure, complications that can prove fatal. Preeclampsia increases the risk of premature delivery or emergency cesarean, since delivery is the only real cure for the condition. In such instances, the baby faces the numerous risks associated with prematurity. It is estimated that preeclampsia occurs in 5 to 7 percent of pregnancies (more than 200,000 women in the U.S. every year) and is more common in women having their first pregnancy. While preexisting di
Contact: Susan McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital