Increased carotid artery stiffness after preeclampsia in a cross-sectional study of postpartum women

Logan C. Barr, Julia E. Herr, Marie-France Hétu, Graeme N. Smith, Amer M. Johri

First published: 19 April 2022


Preeclampsia (PE) is a hypertensive obstetrical complication associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk. Carotid artery functional assessments allow for identification of subclinical vascular dysfunction. This cross-sectional study measured carotid artery functional indices in healthy women with a recent pregnancy complicated by PE, versus women with a prior uncomplicated pregnancy. Women with a history of PE (N = 30) or an uncomplicated pregnancy (N = 30), were recruited between 6 months and 5 years postpartum. Left and right carotid artery ultrasound measured carotid intima media thickness, plaque burden, peak systolic velocity, end diastolic flow velocity and carotid far-wall circumferential strain (FWCS). Carotid FWCS is inversely related to vessel stiffness, where a decrease in FWCS indicates increased vessel stiffness. Right-side FWCS did not differ between women with a history of PE versus normotensive pregnancy. Left carotid artery FWCS was lower in formerly preeclamptic women after adjustment for diameter, pulse pressure, and heart rate compared to women following an uncomplicated pregnancy (3.35 ± 1.08 × 10−3 vs. 4.46 ± 1.40 × 10−3p = 0.003). Those with prior severe PE had the greatest decrease in FWCS adjusted to diameter, pulse pressure, and heart rate compared to healthy controls (p = 0.02). Adjusted FWCS and total serum cholesterol were independent indicators of PE history when present in a logistic regression model with confounding variables including age, body mass index, and resting blood pressure. Further investigation is needed to elucidate if FWCS can be used as a risk stratification tool for future cardiovascular disease following a pregnancy complicated by PE. A history of PE is associated with decreased left FWCS (increased left carotid artery stiffness).

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