Researchers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center say a simple urine test can accurately detect preeclampsia in early pregnancy.
The Congo Red Dot (CRD) test could save lives for the condition that can be difficult to spot because the symptoms – headaches and swelling – often mimic those of a routine pregnancy but can quickly turn deadly.
“Our findings will have a huge impact on the health of women and children,” said Dr. Kara Rood, lead study author and maternal-fetal medicine physician at the Wexner center in a news release. “The challenge is that it’s a progressive disease and not everyone progresses at the same time. Some women can have the disease for weeks before having symptoms, whereas other women can progress to a dangerous level within days.”
Researchers published their findings in Lancet’s E-Clinical Medicine.
Preeclampsia describes high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy and elevated proteins in the urine. Preeclampsia severe enough to affect brain function and cause seizures or comas is called eclampsia. The rate of preeclampsia has increased in the last two decades, so that it now affects 1 in 20 pregnancies.
How does the test work?
Doctors will be able to use a pregnant woman’s urine using the CRD test, which contains a special red dye in paper that reacts to proteins in a pregnant woman with preeclampsia within three minutes.
This will erase any doubts a doctor has about whether to start potentially life-saving treatment, researchers say.
Researchers evaluated 346 pregnant women for high blood pressure and possible preeclampsia using the CRD test.
Trained clinical research nurses analyzed results before the patient’s doctor made a final diagnosis. Results of the CRD test were not shared with the patient’s care team.
Eighty-nine of the pregnant women had a clinical diagnosis of preeclampsia. Of those, 79 percent were induced due to preeclampsia, with an average age of delivery at 33 weeks gestation.
The team found the CRD test was superior to the other biochemical tests, with an accuracy rate of 86 percent.
Rood said the test may even prevent early and unnecessary hospital admissions because of an over-abundance of caution.
“This test helps us to quickly provide care to women with preeclampsia, while avoiding unnecessary admissions or even early deliveries,” she said.
When will it be available?
The test won’t be available for a while, unfortunately.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the rapid preeclampsia test in the next two years so OB/GYNs nationwide can use it. After that, the hope is that it will be affordable and land on local pharmacy shelves so that women can monitor potential pregnancy complications at home.
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