Milestone for Melbourne’s life-saving preeclampsia prediction test

Katie James and family
Katie James lost her daughter Ivy due to preeclampsia. Thanks to the Women’s care and expertise in preeclampsia, she and husband Stewart went on to have two further children after Ivy.
19 May 2021 |
A test predicting the potentially fatal pregnancy condition, preeclampsia, has reached a milestone in its use at the Royal Women’s Hospital – the first hospital in Australia to study and rollout use of the test.

The Preeclampsia Ratio Test – known as the PERT test – has now been completed 5,000 times for 3,000 patients at the hospital. As well as quickly diagnosing the condition by measuring proteins in the blood, it predicts whether or not these women are going to develop preeclampsia in the subsequent four weeks. 

Obstetricians say the test has helped hundreds of women and babies have safe and successful pregnancies. 

Former patient at the Women’s Katie James was diagnosed with preeclampsia when she was pregnant with her baby Ivy in 2015.

She was rushed to the Women’s after the onset of preeclampsia symptoms – migraine, swelling and vision problems. Her blood pressure had soared, her kidneys and liver stopped functioning properly and her placenta ruptured causing Ivy to have a serious brain bleed.

After Ivy was delivered by emergency caesarean section at 28 weeks’ gestation, her fragile condition became clear and she sadly passed away at six days old.

About preeclampsia

  • Affecting one in 20 women, preeclampsia is the most common serious medical disorder in pregnancy across the world. It can develop quickly and it leads to dangerously high blood pressure, which can be fatal.
  • Currently the only way of preventing preeclampsia is low-dose aspirin taken daily from an early gestation – a technique researched and established at the Women’s.
  • The only way of curing preeclampsia is delivering the baby (and placenta).

In January 2016 Katie and her partner Stewart fell pregnant with Edmund. Professor Shaun Brennecke AO, world-expert on preeclampsia at the Women’s, helped to ensure a safe pregnancy.

“Professor Brennecke prescribed a low-dose of aspirin to be taken every day and with the PERT test, I was able to have that assurance that any potential preeclampsia was being monitored and would be acted upon fast – that was a huge relief,” said Katie.

“Thanks to Professor Brennecke we now have Edmund, and I’ve also since had another healthy baby boy, Monty. With our eldest son Lennox, we have three boys so life is busy and lots of fun! But there’s not a day that goes by without thinking about their sister, Ivy.”

Professor Brennecke led the development of the test at the Women’s, and has since successfully worked with clinicians at the hospital to embed it into clinical practice.

“The PERT test is a crucial part of our care for women who have clinical features suggestive of preeclampsia, or are at high risk of it because, for example, they have had the condition before,” said Professor Brennecke.

“It delivers a fast and accurate reading of biomarkers in the blood, and allows us as clinicians to act quickly if there is something wrong. The test also significantly reduces the number of hospitalisations of women with suspected preeclampsia by reliably ruling preeclampsia out.”

The PERT test is now being introduced into clinical practice guidelines in the USA, UK and Europe and numerous economic health studies have concluded that the test results in significant savings to the healthcare system.