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Southampton Health Technology Assessments CentreNews

SHTAC is critically evaluating the clinical accuracy and cost-effectiveness of tests for diagnosing pre-eclampsia

Published: 30 March 2015

SHTAC is critically evaluating the clinical accuracy and cost-effectiveness of blood tests for diagnosing pre-eclampsia as part of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Diagnostics Assessment Programme.

Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that can develop during pregnancy and may threaten the welfare of both the mother and fetus. It is associated with high blood pressure during pregnancy and thought to be caused by problems with the blood supply in the placenta. Two proteins in the mother’s blood plasma could be helpful in diagnosing pre-eclampsia. The first, known as 'placental growth factor', promotes the development of new blood vessels in the placenta and the second, known as 'sFlt-1', interferes with the action of the placental growth factor. Women with pre-eclampsia usually have abnormally low levels of placental growth factor and abnormally high levels of sFlt-1. Diagnostic blood tests for confirming pre-eclampsia have been developed which measure the concentrations of one or both of these proteins. The tests could have value in ruling out pre-eclampsia in women suspected of having the condition, as this could reduce the need for hospital admissions and further clinical assessments in this group.

As part of the NICE Diagnostics Assessment Programme, SHTAC is conducting a systematic review and economic evaluation of the clinical accuracy and cost-effectiveness of four tests which aim to diagnose pre-eclampsia in women who are suspected of having the condition. NICE is expected to issue guidance to the NHS in March 2016.

For more information on SHTAC’s research into diagnostic technologies please visit our Research page.

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