Open Access Research article

Comparison of placental growth factor and fetal flow Doppler ultrasonography to identify fetal adverse outcomes in women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy: an observational study

Attila Molvarec*, Nóra Gullai, Balázs Stenczer, Gergely Fügedi, Bálint Nagy and János Rigó Jr

Author Affiliations

First Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Semmelweis University, Baross utca 27, Budapest H-1088, Hungary

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:161  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-161

Published: 13 August 2013



Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) are leading causes of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality. Failure to detect intrauterine growth restriction in women at high risk has been highlighted as a significant avoidable cause of serious fetal outcome. In this observational study we compare fetal flow using Doppler ultrasonography with a new test for placental growth factor (PlGF) to predict fetal adverse events.


Eighty-nine women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (24 with chronic hypertension, 17 with gestational hypertension, 12 with HELLP syndrome, 19 with preeclampsia and 17 with superimposed preeclampsia) were enrolled. A single maternal blood sample to measure free PlGF (Alere Triage) taken before 35 weeks of pregnancy was compared to the last Doppler ultrasound measurement of fetal flow before delivery. PlGF was classified as normal (PlGF≥100 pg/ml), low (12<PlGF<100) or very low (PlGF≤12 pg/ml). A positive test for abnormal fetal flow was defined as either signs of centralisation of the fetal circulation or diastolic block or reverse flow in the umbilical artery or descending aorta; this was a criterion for delivery. Fetal outcomes were intrauterine growth restriction and birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.


In total 61/89 women had a preterm birth and 22 infants had IUGR. Of those who delivered preterm, 20/20 women with abnormal fetal flow and 36/41 (87.8%) women with normal fetal flow had low or very low PlGF. Of those infants with IUGR, 22/22 had low or very low maternal PlGF and 10/22 had abnormal fetal flow.


PlGF may provide useful information before 35th gestational week to identify fetuses requiring urgent delivery, and those at risk of later adverse outcomes not identified by fetal flow Doppler ultrasonography.

Hypertension; Placental growth factor; PlGF; Preeclampsia; IUGR; Doppler; Growth restriction