OHSU is Part of International Groundbreaking Preeclampsia Study

06/07/02    Portland, Ore.

OHSU is the only hospital in the United States to participate in the Oxford-based study.

A clinical trial partially conducted by Oregon Health & Science University has resulted in a global change in the standard treatment for preeclampsia, a disorder that affects women in the second half of pregnancy. Symptoms include high blood pressure, severe edema and protein in the urine. The study, dubbed the "Magpie" trial, tracked the effectiveness of magnesium sulfate in preventing women with preeclampsia from having seizures. OHSU joined the study under the leadership of Sig-Linda Jacobson, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine. The study appears in the current issue of The Lancet.

In the United States, intravenously delivered magnesium sulfate has been standard treatment for preeclampsia since the 1920s. However, few trials have been conducted to confirm its effectiveness and safety for both mother and baby. The clinical trial was the largest global study ever performed. Hospitals in 33 countries took part in the trial, which began in 1998.

The OHSU trial included 47 women with preeclampsia who were evaluated over an eight month period. Women were eligible for the study if they had not yet given birth or had given birth within 24 hours. All women were given either a placebo or magnesium sulfate as a treatment for their preeclampsia.

One patient suffering from severe edema, Bridget Davis of Salem, Oregon, gave birth to twins in March 2001. "My blood pressure skyrocketed, and my body became extremely swollen. I couldn't even walk when I was brought to the hospital. It was a very scary time for me," said Davis. "The doctors told me my babies were fine and that kept me going."

The study's results were so conclusive that scientists decided to halt when only 10,141 of the 14,000 women had been recruited.

"We found that magnesium sulfate decreased the risk of women having a seizure by 45 percent," said Jacobson, primary investigator for the OHSU study. "While magnesium sulfate is the standard treatment in the United States, the results of this study will have a major impact internationally, especially for third-world countries."