Increased microvascular vasodilation and cardiovascular risk following a pre-eclamptic pregnancy

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Women who develop pre-eclampsia are at high-risk for premature cardiovascular disease and death. The aim of this study was to assess microvascular function and cardiovascular risk in the early postpartum period for women who did/did not have a pregnancy complicated by pre-eclampsia. Peripheral microvascular function was assessed in women in the third trimester of uncomplicated pregnancies, with re-evaluation at 2 and 6 months postpartum. The effect of pre-eclampsia on postpartum microvascular function was assessed 2 and 6 months after delivery. Never-pregnant, naturally cycling women served for comparison. Cutaneous microvascular reactivity to acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside, delivered locally by iontophoresis, was measured by laser Doppler flowmetry. 30-year and lifetime risk estimates for cardiovascular disease were established. Acetylcholine-mediated vasodilation was enhanced by normotensive pregnancy, and declined to nonpregnant levels by 6 months postpartum. Acetylcholine-mediated vasodilation remained high in pre-eclamptic subjects from 2 to 6 months postpartum compared to normotensive and never-pregnant controls. Pre-eclamptic subjects exhibited elevated 30-year and lifetime risk at 6 months postpartum. This study provides in vivo evidence of microvascular and cardiovascular risk implications of preeclampsia as early as 6 months postpartum, and suggests that the development of pre-eclampsia may be used to identify women at risk and eligible for risk screening and intervention.




Murphy, M. S. Q., Vignarajah, M., & Smith, G. N. (2014). Increased microvascular vasodilation and cardiovascular risk following a pre-eclamptic pregnancy. Physiological Reports, 2(11).

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