Improving care for new and expectant mothers through innovative new method of diagnosis at Lancashire Teaching

Clinical biochemistry and obstetrics teams at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have developed a new service to aid in the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia. This new service is the first of its kind in the North West.

Pre-eclampsia is a serious complication of pregnancy which is associated with high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The condition is potentially life threatening for both mother and baby, and pregnant women with pre-eclampsia need close maternal and foetal monitoring.

In the past, diagnosis of pre-eclampsia has been based on a variety of clinical and biochemical tests but there has been no single, objective laboratory test available. The team took advantage of the advanced analytical technology available at the Preston Clinical Biochemistry Hub and the combined clinical and scientific skills between departments.

Critically, this service improvement involves the use of innovative blood tests in all pregnant women who are suspected of having pre-eclampsia. The test requires a blood sample which is analysed for  pre-eclampsia markers. The use of these tests means that pre-eclampsia can now be diagnosed quicker, earlier and with more accuracy. Additionally, they are being used to assess a woman’s risk of developing pre-eclampsia and to improve outcomes for both mother and baby.  

Shonagh Haslam, Principal Clinical Biochemist at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: “The use of pre-eclampsia markers will significantly improve the diagnosis and management of pre-eclampsia. A positive test ensures that the right patients are admitted to hospital and provides reassurance to pregnant women if the test is negative. As well as potentially saving lives this will significantly improve the patient pathway.”

Dr Martin Myers, Consultant Clinical Biochemist and Laboratory Director of the Clinical Biochemistry Services in Central Lancashire, said: “Lancashire Teaching Hospitals are one of only three hospitals nationally, and the only one in the region, who offer this type of service. This new, and relatively unique service, will identify at risk women earlier and will avoid unnecessary admission of women who are not at risk of pre-eclampsia. Lancashire Teaching Hospitals are leading the way for this service and we are now able to offer this test across Lancashire to improve the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia.”