New blood test predicts preeclampsia risk in first trimester

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New blood test predicts early risk of preeclampsia in pregnancy.

NEW YORK, May 19: A new blood test, launched by Labcorp, can now predict a woman’s risk for preeclampsia as early as the first trimester, the company announced on Wednesday. This is the first test in the United States that can be used between 11 and 14 weeks of gestation to determine the risk of preeclampsia before 34 weeks of pregnancy.

Labcorp’s Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, Dr. Brian Caveney, highlighted the test’s potential impact on prenatal care. “By giving healthcare providers another tool to assess preeclampsia risk in their pregnant patients with objective biomarkers, we’re helping to advance prenatal care and improve outcomes for mothers and their babies,” he said in a news release.

Preeclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy complication, affects about one in 25 pregnancies in the U.S. The condition is more prevalent among Black women, who are 60% more likely to experience it compared to white women.

Despite the promise of the new test, some medical professionals express caution. Dr. Christopher Zahn, interim CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), questioned the test’s practical utility. “It is currently unclear how useful the Labcorp test will be in accurately predicting risk for developing preeclampsia and whether it is appropriate for all pregnant patients,” Zahn told CNN. He emphasized the need for evidence-based interventions to mitigate the disease’s impact if predicted by the test.

Dr. Christian Pettker, chief of obstetrics at Yale-New Haven Hospital, echoed these concerns. “The utility of the test in managing patients has yet to be proven and it is not clear that it helps more than it could hurt,” Pettker said. He suggested that the test might be most beneficial for patients with a history of preeclampsia, who are already considered high-risk and closely monitored.

Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and signs of organ damage, typically appearing after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The only definitive cure is delivering the baby, though severe cases can be managed with medications.

Labcorp claims the new test measures preeclampsia risk with up to 90% sensitivity and 90% specificity by detecting four biomarkers associated with the condition. The company is negotiating with health insurers for coverage, with the test priced at about $240.

Eleni Tsigas, CEO of the Preeclampsia Foundation, shared her personal experience, stating that such a test could have significantly altered her first pregnancy. Diagnosed with preeclampsia just 11 weeks before her due date, Tsigas’ daughter was stillborn. She believes the new test could prevent last-minute emergencies like hers.

“If it’s done right, it has the potential to eliminate those surprise cases of preeclampsia,” Tsigas said, stressing the importance of making the test accessible to all women regardless of socioeconomic status. “Tests like this move the bar,” she added, highlighting its potential to reduce racial disparities in maternal and neonatal health outcomes.

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