Research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, suggests that severe preeclampsia damages the heart’s ability to relax between contractions, causing poor pumping of the blood.
Johns Hopkins University researchers used heart imaging technology to study dozens of pregnant women.
The study used the 10% most severe cases to study the pumping and relaxing activity of their heart.
Researchers identified 63 women with severe preeclampsia for the study, along with 36 healthy matched controls.
The study defined severe preeclampsia as high blood pressure, diagnosed liver and kidney damage, fluid in the lungs, low platelet counts, and/or vision problems.
All participants underwent echocardiography to take images of the heart’s chambers at about 33 weeks gestation.
Results of the study showed that women with severe preeclampsia had higher contraction pressures in the right ventricles of the heart.
The women also had an average of 31 millimetres of mercury compared to the healthy group who had on average of 22 millimetres.
The study concluded that the heart had decreased pumping activity, sending an inadequate amount of blood to the body, in women with severe preeclampsia.
Assistant Professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Arthur Jason Vaught, said: “The damage done to the heart’s pumping ability during pregnancy in women with preeclampsia is striking, and it makes sense that this particular kind of damage puts them at greater risk of heart disease and strokes in the future.
“Although we have ways of identifying and managing the risk factors in many women, severe preeclampsia sometimes hit the healthy without warning. If we can find the causes and the mechanisms behind the disorder, the idea is that we find better ways to prevent and treat it.”
The research ‘Acute cardiac effects of severe preeclampsia’ can be found here.
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