Impaired vascular dilatation in women with a history of pre-eclampsia

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The mechanisms underlying increased cardiovascular risk among women with a history of pre-eclampsia remain unclear. Impaired endothelial function has been observed in both pre-eclampsia and atherosclerosis, and provides a plausible link between the two conditions. We studied endothelial function and arterial compliance in non-pregnant, previously pre-eclamptic women.


A study of 30 women with a history of pre-eclampsia and 21 women with a previous normotensive, uncomplicated pregnancy was carried out.


Changes in brachial artery blood flow, induced by intra-arterial infusions of an endothelium-independent (sodium nitroprusside) and an endothelium-dependent (acetylcholine) vasodilator, were measured by venous occlusion plethysmography. Arterial stiffness was assessed by pulse-wave analysis.


Vasodilatation was impaired in women with previous pre-eclampsia; at low and high concentrations of endothelium-independent (P = 0.004 and P = 0.057, respectively) and endothelium-dependent (P = 0.045 and P = 0.02) vasodilators, respectively. There was no difference in arterial stiffness between the groups (P = 0.45). In multiple regression analyses both endothelium-independent and endothelium-dependent vasodilatations were independently associated with a history of pre-eclampsia and parity. There was no correlation with blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), smoking or age.


The finding of impaired vascular dilatation several years after a pre-eclamptic pregnancy could contribute to the higher risk of cardiovascular disease in these women.

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