Placental Growth Factor

What is PlGF testing?

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that affects some pregnant women, usually during the second half of pregnancy (from 20 weeks) or soon after their baby is delivered. Placental growth factor (PlGF) is a protein which is involved in the development of new blood vessels; in pre-eclampsia, the levels of PlGF can be abnormally low. Placental growth factor (PlGF) blood tests measure the amount of PlGF in blood plasma or serum, and if low, there may be placental dysfunction.

Why is PlGF testing required?

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that only occurs in pregnancy, typically in the later stages, and affects approximately 3 – 5% of all pregnancies.  It is a potentially serious pregnancy complication, which when identified, needs referral to hospital for monitoring of both mother and baby.  The condition is thought to be related to problems with placenta development and early signs of pre-eclampsia include high blood pressure and protein detected in urine.

If pre-eclampsia is not diagnosed and closely monitored, it can lead to potentially life threatening complications such as eclampsia, HELLP syndrome, stroke or organ dysfunction.  Pre-eclampsia may affect the foetus putting it at greater risk of intrauterine growth restriction, being born prematurely and intrauterine death.  Women develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy may be at greater risk of cardiovascular disease in later life.

What solution does PlGF testing provide?

Prior to PlGF testing, diagnosis and management of pre-eclampsia had remained unchanged for a number of years.  The clinical presentation of pre-eclampsia and the way the condition progresses can vary greatly amongst women which makes diagnosis challenging.  NICE approved Roche and Quidell pre-eclampsia diagnostic tests provide the ability to better diagnose suspected pre-eclampsia and to assess the risk for complications associated with pre-eclampsia.  As such they offer clinical teams the ability to better manage risk and provide appropriate care to the woman and her unborn baby.

What impact does PlGF testing have?

The test will help to reliably diagnose pre-eclampsia which will enable clinicians to plan appropriate care upon diagnosis leading to more effective clinical management and better outcomes for mother and baby.   Where PlGF provides a negative result for pre-eclampsia, unnecessary admissions can be prevented and clinicians can confidently send patients home.

  • Use of PlGF testing can be expected to reduce hospitalisation rates by more than half (from 35% to 16%),
  • Reduction in hospitalisation rates could be expected to generate a cost saving of £344 per patient,
  • Expected annual cost savings for NHS of £24 million (based on 68 900 women presenting with hypertensive disorders annually),
  • The PlGF test results in a reduction of time to clinical confirmation of pre-eclampsia.

From April 2021 PlGF-based testing is one of four technologies included under the new NHS MedTech Funding Mandate.

Find out more

Find our more about the Pre-eclampsia test here

Alternatively, get in touch with a member of the project team below.


Project team

Nasrin Khan

Improvement Science Manager

Jodie Mazur

Head of Patient Safety

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