Angiogenic factors are involved in formation of new blood vessels required for placental development and function; and critical for fetal growth and development. Soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1(sFlt-1) is an anti-angiogenic protein that inhibits formation of new blood vessels resulting in potential pregnancy complications. The objective of this study was to undertake a systematic review to assess levels of sFlt-1 in early pregnancy and association with adverse pregnancy outcomes. PubMed and Medline databases and reference lists were searched up to July 2010. Inclusion criteria were pregnant women, blood sample taken during first trimester and assessment/reporting of sFlt-1 concentrations and subsequent pregnancy complications. Twelve relevant studies were identified of 71 to 668 women. No pooling of results was undertaken due to variation in sFlt-1 concentrations (range, 166-6,349 pg/ml amongst controls), samples used (serum, plasma), different summary statistics (mean, median, odds ratio) and outcome definitions applied. Levels of sFlt-1 were generally higher among women who developed preeclampsia (11 studies) or gestational hypertension (two studies), but not significantly different to normotensive women in most studies. There was no consistent pattern in association between sFlt-1 concentrations and fetal growth restriction (4 studies); and levels were non-significantly higher for women with postpartum bleeding (1 study) and significantly lower for stillbirths (1 study).This review found no clear evidence of an association between sFlt-1 levels in first trimester and adverse pregnancy outcomes. However, findings were affected by methodological, biological and testing variations between studies; highlighting the need for consistent testing of new biomarkers and reporting of outcome measures
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