Individual Common Carotid Artery Wall Layer Dimensions, but Not Carotid Intima–Media Thickness, Indicate Increased Cardiovascular Risk in Women With Preeclampsia: An Investigation Using Noninvasive High-frequency Ultrasound

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Abstract

Background—

Preeclampsia (PE) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. Ultrasound assessment of the common carotid artery intima–media thickness (IMT) during or after PE has not indicated any increased cardiovascular risk.

Methods and Results—

We used high-frequency ultrasound (22 MHz) to estimate the individual common carotid artery IMTs in 55 women at PE diagnosis and in 64 women with normal pregnancies at a similar stage. All were re-examined about 1 year postpartum. A thick intima, thin media, and high intima/media (I/M) ratio are signs of a less healthy artery wall. PE was associated with a significantly thicker mean common carotid artery intima, thinner media, and higher I/M ratio than in normal pregnancy (mean I/M difference, 0.21; 95% confidence interval, 0.17–0.25; P<0.0001). After adjustment for first trimester body mass index and mean arterial pressure, differences in intima thickness and I/M remained significant. About 1 year postpartum, these values had improved in both groups, but group differences remained significant (all adjusted P<0.0001). There were no significant differences in IMT between groups. In receiver-operating characteristic curve analysis, intima thickness and I/M were strongly predictive of prevalent PE (area under the curve, ≈0.95), whereas IMT was not (area under the curve, 0.49).

Conclusions—

The arteries of women with PE were negatively affected during pregnancy and 1 year postpartum compared with women with normal pregnancies, indicating increased cardiovascular risk. Estimation of intima thickness and I/M ratio seem preferable to estimation of common carotid artery IMT in imaging cardiovascular risk in PE. Results from this pilot study warrant further confirmation.

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