News • Pre-eclampsia

Detecting high-risk pregnancy with heart attack test

About five percent of all women develop so-called pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, which in severe cases can become life-threatening for mother and child and require an emergency caesarean section. Until now, the risk has been determined rather unspecifically on the basis of factors such as diabetes, obesity or the mother's age. Using commercially available troponin tests, high-risk patients could be identified much earlier and more accurately than before.

portrait of dirk westermann
Prof. Dr. Dirk Westermann

Image source: University of Freiburg

Prof. Dr. Dirk Westermann, Medical Director of the Department of Cardiology and Angiology at the Medical Center - University of Freiburg, presented this completely new approach at the Congress of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) in New Orleans, USA. Troponin tests have long been used in acute diagnostics for suspected heart attacks. 

‘We were able to show that the troponin level in the blood is very closely associated with the risk of later pre-eclampsia. In particular, severe courses of the disease can presumably be predicted very well. This could make early and targeted prevention possible in the future,’ says Westermann. 

The numerous risk factors for pre-eclampsia include being very overweight, diabetes, previous multiple pregnancies and a very young or old age of the mother. If several of these factors come together, the pregnant women are closely monitored and receive prophylactic medication with aspirin. But: ‘By far not all women with risk factors actually develop pre-eclampsia. We were able to show that women with a low troponin level did not develop pre-eclampsia despite risk factors. ‘Thus, about 40 percent of the women would not have needed closer care,’ says Westermann. For their study, the Freiburg physicians examined 3,080 blood samples from four international studies of a total of 2,293 pregnant women.

A reliable test that can indicate the development of pre-eclampsia at an early stage would be a great help

Ingolf Juhasz-Böss

‘We can already treat women with pre-eclampsia very well today. So far, however, the causes of the disease are unknown, which makes diagnosis much more difficult. A reliable test that can indicate the development of pre-eclampsia at an early stage would be a great help,’ says Prof. Dr. Ingolf Juhasz-Böss, Medical Director of the Department of Gynaecology at the Freiburg University Medical Center. 

In the next step, the researchers want to check their results in a prospective study and combine the data from the troponin test with other risk factors. In this way, the safety of pregnant women and their unborn children could be further increased. 

Source: Medical Center - University of Freiburg


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