Researchers at Cedars-Sinai have found that a blood test can help identify pregnant women at risk of developing a severe form of the blood pressure disorder preeclampsia.

They discovered that a specific imbalance of two placental proteins could be used to predict which women would develop preterm preeclampsia.

The researchers conducted a blinded, prospective study, which was published in the journal NEJM Evidence.

The study was conducted across 18 US hospitals in 1,014 pregnant women who are initially hospitalised for preterm hypertension.

Cedars-Sinai researchers found that a specific protein imbalance in the hospitalised pregnant women provided a path to identify their risk of developing severe preeclampsia.

They measured the ratio of soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 (sFlt-1) and placental growth factor (PlGF) in pregnant women’s blood samples.

Cedars-Sinai Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology chair Sarah Kilpatrick said: “This test was significantly better than all the standard-of-care markers for preeclampsia with severe features.

“It predicted with over 90% accuracy whether the patient would develop preeclampsia with severe features or not, while the usual markers were accurate less than 75% of the time.

“Having an accurate test would help us ensure that the mother was in the right hospital for management of her care and that of her preterm baby.”

Delivery is currently the only cure for preeclampsia.

Cedars-Sinai noted that a test that can indicate a preterm pregnant woman who is likely to develop severe disease can help in optimising care.

The findings from the study are also expected to point the way for potential drug therapies for women who are at risk.