By Ben Spencer Medical Correspondent For The Daily Mail
Published: 23:30 BST, 1 April 2019 | Updated: 23:51 BST, 1 April 2019
A simple blood test could save lives by rapidly diagnosing a dangerous condition in pregnant women, researchers have shown.
The 15-minute test for pre-eclampsia allows doctors to begin treatment two days earlier than usual - resulting in a 68 per cent reduction in severe complications such as strokes, heart attacks and seizures among expectant mothers.
NHS bosses confirmed they would roll the PIGF test out across the country after a study published in the Lancet medical journal showed it was 95 per cent accurate.
Every year 23,000 pregnant women in Britain suffer pre-eclampsia, a deadly condition which threatens the life of both mother and baby.
It is notoriously difficult to diagnose because most of the symptoms - such as high blood pressure, swollen feet, headaches and nausea - are also common in normal pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, which can be deadly for both a woman and her unborn baby if untreated
Until now a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia has taken an average of four days from the time concerns were first raised, including 24 to 36 hours of monitoring in hospital - a nerve-wracking experience for pregnant women and a huge drain on NHS resources.
But the PIGF blood test - which works by detecting chemicals from the placenta circulating in the blood - slashes this in half, the study showed.
Thousands of women can be immediately reassured they are not at risk and sent home, while those who the blood test show are of concern are admitted for monitoring.
If pre-eclampsia is confirmed doctors then start treatment - which usually involves delivering a baby early.
Study leader Professor Lucy Chappell of King's College London said: 'For the last hundred years, we have diagnosed pre-eclampsia through measuring blood pressure and checking for protein in a woman's urine.
'These are relatively imprecise and often quite subjective.
'We knew that monitoring PlGF was an accurate way to help detect the condition but were unsure whether making this tool available to clinicians would lead to better care for women. Now we know that it does.'
The study involved 1,035 women with suspected pre-eclampsia at 11 hospitals across the UK.
It showed the average time to pre-eclampsia diagnosis was cut from 4.1 days to 1.9 days.
Serious complications for the mother were cut from 5.3 per cent to 3.8 per cent - which when adjusted for age and pre-existing conditions resulted in a reduced risk of 68 per cent.
The single test resulted in no change in the likelihood of complications for the baby - but the researchers are launching a second trial to see whether repeat testing could help infants as well as mothers.
Pre-eclampsia, which is caused by a problem with the placenta, occurs in the second half of pregnancy and is a major cause risk of stillbirth and miscarriage.
It is extremely dangerous for the mother herself - and is the