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Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1985 Jan;92(1):77-83.

Does ultrasound examination render biochemical tests obsolete in the prediction of early pregnancy failure?


Serum levels of fetal, placental and maternal hormones and proteins [alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), human chorionic gonadotrophin, human placental lactogen, schwangerschaftsprotein 1, pregnancy associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A), oestradiol-17 beta, progesterone, pregnancy zone protein] were measured in 108 women with bleeding during the first half of pregnancy. Ultrasound examination at the time of each blood sampling revealed a fetal heart action on at least one occasion in 77 women. Spontaneous abortion occurred in 42 pregnancies, 31 of these showed no ultrasound sign of fetal life, whilst the fetal heart action was observed repeatedly until abortion in the remaining 11 women. Abnormally low levels of PAPP-A were most likely to indicate pregnancy failure, in particular if the fetal heart action was seen at the time of blood sampling. The predictive value, sensitivity and relative risk of a single depressed PAPP-A level were respectively 49, 89 and 41%, the predictive value of a normal result being 99%. With the exception of AFP, all other biochemical indices examined were consistently in the normal range in this group of women. If ultrasound findings were not considered, the biochemical indices were of comparable value in the prediction of spontaneous abortion. PAPP-A levels were uniformly depressed in all patients who spontaneously aborted, frequently weeks before this event, in the presence of a live fetus.

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