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Something fishy in Florence

January 13, 2014

When routine science drives out the good stuff

The Society for Gynecological Investigation (SGI) is one of the première research societies for obstetrics and gynaecology in the US. This year they are holding their annual congress in Florence, – no global warming worries for them – and have just declined the offer of an oral presentation of the forthcoming results of the Control of Hypertension in Pregnancy study (CHIPS).

CHIPS, led by Professor Laura Magee from British Columbia, is an important randomised trial. It is testing the hypothesis that tight control (i.e. normalisation) of raised blood pressure harms the baby but is good for the mother. Both arms, tight and loose control, are widely practised, but no-one knows which is better. Millions of pregnant women need the answer now. I’m only distantly involved, but the trial appears to have been well conducted. The protocol was peer reviewed, published, and followed, and the planned sample size achieved.  It cost five million dollars, with 1,031 women participating from 97 centres in 16 countries.

I’m not privy to SGI deliberations, but I know what usually fills their congresses. Observational studies relating fancy Doppler fetal blood flow measures or the blood levels of various chemicals, to things like birth weight or pre-eclampsia. Worthy but hardly ground breaking. It would be sad if the audience in the main hall were forced to listen to some grandee rambling on about his serum rhubarb measurements while the results of this major trial were hidden away in a remote poster display.

Let’s hope I’m wrong. Perhaps the first public presentation of the results so many major international multi-centre trials have been offered, that there wasn’t room for CHIPS. I’ll be looking out for the programme.

Jim Thornton 

Full disclosure – My hospital was a recruiting centre for CHIPS.

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