Persistent low levels of human chorionic gonadotropin: A premalignant gestational trophoblastic disease

Sarah A. Khanlian, Harriet O. Smith, Laurence A. Cole

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56 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: This study was undertaken to evaluate the significance of persistent low-level human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) titers (usually <50 IU/L) in the absence of clinical evidence of pregnancy or gestational trophoblastic disease. STUDY DESIGN: The USA hCG Reference Service consulted on 114 cases with persistent low levels of hCG; 51 had false-positive hCG results. The remaining 63 cases had real hCG results and are presented here. RESULTS: Antecedent gestational events included hydatidiform mole (27), pregnancy (35), and gestational trophoblastic neoplasm (1). Forty of the 63 (64%) cases received therapy, including chemotherapy (38), hysterectomy (2), or both (10). Despite treatment, in all cases, low hCG titers persisted. After 1 to 4.5 years of low titers, four women had a sudden rapid increase in hCG levels, and malignant disease was confirmed or clearly suggested (gestational trophoblastic neoplasm [3] and placental site trophoblastic tumor [1]). Invasive trophoblast antigen (ITA) is a marker of invasive cytotrophoblast cells. ITA was measured in 38 of the cases with persistent low hCG, in all cases ITA accounted for less than 25% of the hCG concentration. It was also determined in the 4 cases indicated with malignant disease, accounting for more than 80% of the hCG. CONCLUSION: The presence of persistent low-level hCG titers defines a subset of women with preinvasive or quiescent gestational trophoblastic disease. ITA effectively detected the presence or absence of invasive cells in these cases. The recommended management of the quiescent disease is close surveillance without therapy until malignant disease detected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1254-1259
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2003


  • Gestational trophoblastic disease
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin
  • Quiescent gestational trophoblastic disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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