Background: Fetal death is an obstetrical syndrome that annually affects 2.4 to 3 million pregnancies worldwide, including more than 20,000 in the United States each year. Currently, there is no test available to identify patients at risk for this pregnancy complication. Objective: We sought to determine if maternal plasma concentrations of angiogenic and antiangiogenic factors measured at 24-28 weeks of gestation can predict subsequent fetal death. Study Design: A case-cohort study was designed to include 1000 randomly selected subjects and all remaining fetal deaths (cases) from a cohort of 4006 women with a singleton pregnancy, enrolled at 6-22 weeks of gestation, in a pregnancy biomarker cohort study. The placentas of all fetal deaths were histologically examined by pathologists who used a standardized protocol and were blinded to patient outcomes. Placental growth factor, soluble endoglin, and soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 concentrations were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Quantiles of the analyte concentrations (or concentration ratios) were estimated as a function of gestational age among women who delivered a live neonate but did not develop preeclampsia or deliver a small-for-gestational-age newborn. A positive test was defined as analyte concentrations (or ratios) <2.5th and 10th centiles (placental growth factor, placental growth factor/soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 [angiogenic index-1] and placental growth factor/soluble endoglin) or >90th and 97.5th centiles (soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 and soluble endoglin). Inverse probability weighting was used to reflect the parent cohort when estimating the relative risk. Results: There were 11 fetal deaths and 829 controls with samples available for analysis between 24-28 weeks of gestation. Three fetal deaths occurred <28 weeks and 8 occurred ≥28 weeks of gestation. The rate of placental lesions consistent with maternal vascular underperfusion was 33.3% (1/3) among those who had a fetal death <28 weeks and 87.5% (7/8) of those who had this complication ≥28 weeks of gestation. The maternal plasma angiogenic index-1 value was <10th centile in 63.6% (7/11) of the fetal death group and in 11.1% (92/829) of the controls. The angiogenic index-1 value was <2.5th centile in 54.5% (6/11) of the fetal death group and in 3.7% (31/829) of the controls. An angiogenic index-1 value <2.5th centile had the largest positive likelihood ratio for predicting fetal death >24 weeks (14.6; 95% confidence interval, 7.7–27.7) and a relative risk of 29.1 (95% confidence interval, 8.8–97.1), followed by soluble endoglin >97.5th centile and placental growth factor/soluble endoglin <2.5th, both with a positive likelihood ratio of 13.7 (95% confidence interval, 7.3–25.8) and a relative risk of 27.4 (95% confidence interval, 8.2–91.2). Among women without a fetal death whose plasma angiogenic index-1 concentration ratio was <2.5th centile, 61% (19/31) developed preeclampsia or delivered a small-for-gestational-age neonate; when the 10th centile was used as the cut-off, 37% (34/92) of women had these adverse outcomes. Conclusion: (1) A maternal plasma angiogenic index-1 value <2.5th centile (0.126) at 24-28 weeks of gestation carries a 29-fold increase in the risk of subsequent fetal death and identifies 55% of subsequent fetal deaths with a false-positive rate of 3.5%; and (2) 61% of women who have a false-positive test result will subsequently experience adverse pregnancy outcomes.
- maternal vascular underperfusion
- placental growth factor
- preterm delivery
- small for gestational age
- soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1
- soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1