Preeclampsia and coronary plaque erosion: Manifestations of endothelial dysfunction resulting in cardiovascular events in women

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Atherosclerosis is the major underlying pathology of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The risk for CVD is increased in women with a history of preeclampsia. Multiple studies have indicated that accelerated atherosclerosis underlies this increased CVD risk. Furthermore, it has been suggested that endothelial dysfunction and inflammation play an important role in the increased CVD risk of women with preeclampsia. Rupture or erosion of atherosclerotic plaques can induce the formation of thrombi that underlie the onset of acute clinical CVD such as myocardial infarction and stroke. In relatively young women, cardiovascular events are mainly due to plaque erosions. Eroded plaques have a distinct morphology compared to ruptured plaques, but have been understudied as a substrate for CVD. The currently available evidence points towards lesions with features of stability such as high collagen content and smooth muscle cells and with distinct mechanisms that further promote the pro-thrombotic environment such as Toll Like Receptor (TLR) signaling and endothelial apoptosis. These suggested mechanisms, that point to endothelial dysfunction and intimal thickening, may also play a role in preeclampsia. Pregnancy is considered a stress test for the cardiovascular system with preeclampsia as an additional pathological substrate for earlier manifestation of vascular disease. This review provides a summary of the possible common mechanisms involved in preeclampsia and accelerated atherosclerosis in young females and highlights plaque erosion as a likely substrate for CVD events in women with a history of preeclampsia.

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