Hospital trust pilots world first at-home diabetes test for pregnant women
University Hospital Southampton (UHS) is the first in the world to pilot a new at-home diabetes test for pregnant women.
The finger prick blood test works in the same way as the traditional in-hospital oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) but can be carried out by the patient at home, avoiding the need for a clinic appointment.
In a hospital setting the traditional test is usually carried out between 24 and 28 weeks.
By self-testing at home women can do so at their convenience and still get rapid results, freeing up hospital clinic time and resources.
The new test kit is given to those identified as being at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes during their pregnancy, usually during the first booking appointment with the midwife.
The device pairs with a smartphone and results are uploaded via an app and transferred immediately to the midwifery team for review.
Known as GTT@home (short for glucose tolerance test), the test works by taking a small sample of blood, usually taken from the fingertip, which is squeezed onto a test strip contained within a small electronic device.
Next, a glucose drink is consumed followed by a rest period of two hours. The finger prick test is then repeated and the results shared remotely.
As with the traditional test, women are required to fast the night before and during the test.
Gestational diabetes occurs because of high blood sugar (glucose) and usually develops in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
It affects approximately one in 20 pregnant women every year in the UK and is associated with a number of background factors including BMI (body mass index) and ethnicity.
If gestational diabetes is undetected and untreated it can lead to complications during pregnancy including premature birth, preeclampsia (which causes high blood pressure) and increased growth of the baby.
Risks are reduced if the condition is detected early and well managed.
Dr Matthew Coleman, consultant obstetric physician at UHS, said: “We hope this revolutionary new at-home test is going to dramatically change the way we deliver gestational diabetes testing during antenatal care.
“Not only is it better for the patients to self-test in the convenience of their own home, cutting down the number of antenatal appointments they attend, but it will also free up precious NHS time and resources.
“From the admin resources it takes to book and manage clinics, the clinical time taken to run the service and the clinic space taken, this can all now be done with a simple test at home using the GTT@home kit.”
He added: “In addition, patients are able to test at the earliest opportunity, meaning fewer delays and, if gestational diabetes is detected, they can be treated and managed quickly helping to keep them and their babies safe.
“We also hope that testing at home proves to be appealing to the complete background of social and demographic populations that we work with and we look forward to receiving feedback from those involved in the next phase of research.”
James Jackson, CEO and founder of Digostics, said: “Digostics is excited to work with UHS to explore how gestational diabetes (GDM) screening can be streamlined through home-testing.
“With this pilot representing a global-first, UHS’ international reputation for clinical innovation makes it the perfect partner for this project.”
He added: “Our aim is to demonstrate how we can transform diabetes detection in pregnancy by taking the OGTT to the expectant mother, resulting in increased test uptake, reductions in test overheads for healthcare providers and the earlier return of GDM diagnoses.”
The GTT@home pilot has recently completed the first phase of a small caseload of patients and will shortly be testing a higher volume in its second phase to prove its effectiveness.