Obstetrical complications associated with abnormal maternal serum markers analytes

Alain Gagnon, R Douglas Wilson
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada: JOGC 2008, 30 (10): 918-932

OBJECTIVE: To review the obstetrical outcomes associated with abnormally elevated or decreased level of one or more of the most frequently measured maternal serum marker analytes used in screening for aneuploidy. To provide guidance to facilitate the management of pregnancies that have abnormal levels of one of more markers and to assess the usefulness of these markers as a screening test.

OPTIONS: Perinatal outcomes associated with abnormal levels of maternal serum markers analytes are compared with the outcomes of pregnancies with normal levels of the same analytes or the general population.

EVIDENCE: The Cochrane Library and Medline were searched for English-language articles published from 1966 to February 2007, relating to maternal serum markers and perinatal outcomes. Search terms included PAPP-A (pregnancy associated plasma protein A), AFP (alphafetoprotein), hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), estriol, unconjugated estriol, inhibin, inhibin-A, maternal serum screen, triple marker screen, quadruple screen, integrated prenatal screen, first trimester screen, and combined prenatal screen. All study types were reviewed. Randomized controlled trials were considered evidence of the highest quality, followed by cohort studies. Key individual studies on which the recommendations are based are referenced. Supporting data for each recommendation are summarized with evaluative comments and references. The evidence was evaluated using the guidelines developed by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care.

VALUES: The evidence collected was reviewed by the Genetics Committee of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.

BENEFITS, HARMS, AND COSTS: The benefit expected from this guideline is to facilitate early detection of potential adverse pregnancy outcomes when risks are identified at the time of a maternal serum screen. It will help further stratification of risk and provide options for pregnancy management to minimize the impact of pregnancy complications. The potential harms resulting from such practice are associated with the so called false positive (i.e., uncomplicated pregnancies labelled at increased risk for adverse perinatal outcomes), the potential stress associated with such a label, and the investigations performed for surveillance in this situation. No cost-benefit analysis is available to assess costs and savings associated with this guideline. SUMMARY STATEMENTS: 1. An unexplained level of a maternal serum marker analyte is defined as an abnormal level after confirmation of gestational age by ultrasound and exclusion of maternal, fetal, or placental causes for the abnormal level. (III) 2. Abnormally elevated levels of serum markers are associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes in twin pregnancies, after correction for the number of fetuses. Spontaneous or planned mutifetal reductions may result in abnormal elevations of serum markers. (II-2) RECOMMENDATIONS: 1. In the first trimester, an unexplained low PAPP-A (< 0.4 MoM) and/or a low hCG (< 0.5 MoM) are associated with an increased frequency of adverse obstetrical outcomes, and, at present, no specific protocol for treatment is available. (II-2A) In the second trimester, an unexplained elevation of maternal serum AFP (> 2.5 MoM), hCG (> 3.0 MoM), and/or inhibin-A (> or =2.0 MoM) or a decreased level of maternal serum AFP (< 0.25 MoM) and/or unconjugated estriol (< 0.5 MoM) are associated with an increased frequency of adverse obstetrical outcomes, and, at present, no specific protocol for treatment is available. (II-2A) 2. Pregnant woman with an unexplained elevated PAPP-A or hCG in the first trimester and an unexplained low hCG or inhibin-A and an unexplained elevated unconjugated estriol in the second trimester should receive normal antenatal care, as this pattern of analytes is not associated with adverse perinatal outcomes. (II-2A) 3. The combination of second or third trimester placenta previa and an unexplained elevated maternal serum AFP should increase the index of suspicion for placenta accreta, increta, or percreta. (II-2B) An assessment (ultrasound, MRI) of the placental-uterine interface should be performed. Abnormal invasion should be strongly suspected, and the planning of delivery location and technique should be done accordingly. (III-C) 4. A prenatal consultation with the medical genetics department is recommended for low unconjugated estriol levels (<0.3 MoM), as this analyte pattern can be associated with genetic conditions. (II-2B) 5. The clinical management protocol for identification of potential adverse obstetrical outcomes should be guided by one or more abnormal maternal serum marker analyte value rather than the false positive screening results for the trisomy 21 and/or the trisomy 18 screen. (II-2B) 6. Pregnant woman who are undergoing renal dialysis or who have had a renal transplant should be offered maternal serum screening, but interpretation of the result is difficult as the level of serum hCG is not reliable. (II-2A) 7. Abnormal maternal uterine artery Doppler in association with elevated maternal serum AFP, hCG, or inhibin-A or decreased PAPP-A identifies a group of women at greater risk of IUGR and gestational hypertension with proteinuria. Uterine artery Doppler measurements may be used in the evaluation of an unexplained abnormal level of either of these markers. (II-2B) 8. Further research is recommended to identify the best protocol for pregnancy management and surveillance in women identified at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes based on an abnormality of a maternal serum screening analyte. (III-A) 9. In the absence of evidence supporting any specific surveillance protocol, an obstetrician should be consulted in order to establish a fetal surveillance plan specific to the increased obstetrical risks (maternal and fetal) identified. This plan may include enhanced patient education on signs and symptoms of the most common complications, increased frequency of antenatal visits, increased ultrasound (fetal growth, amniotic fluid levels), and fetal surveillance (biophysical profile, arterial and venous Doppler), and cervical length assessment. (III-A) 10. Limited information suggests that, in women with elevated hCG in the second trimester and/or abnormal uterine artery Doppler (at 22-24 weeks), low-dose aspirin (60-81 mg daily) is associated with higher birthweight and lower incidence of gestational hypertension with proteinuria. This therapy may be used in women who are at risk. (II-2B) 11. Further studies are recommended in order to assess the benefits of low-dose aspirin, low molecular weight heparin, or other therapeutic options in pregnancies determined to be at increased risk on the basis of an abnormal maternal serum screening analyte. (III-A) 12. Multiple maternal serum markers screening should not be used at present as a population-based screening method for adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as preeclampsia, placental abruption, and stillbirth) outside an established research protocol, as sensitivity is low, false positive rates are high, and no management protocol has been shown to clearly improve outcomes. (II-2D) When maternal serum screening is performed for the usual clinical indication (fetal aneuploidy and/or neural tube defect), abnormal analyte results can be utilized for the identification of pregnancies at risk and to direct their clinical management. (II-2B) Further studies are recommended to determine the optimal screening method for poor maternal and/or perinatal outcomes. (III-A).

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