Visual evoked potentials in women with and without preeclampsia during pregnancy and postpartum

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Abstract

Objective:

Preeclampsia is a severe hypertensive disorder of pregnancy which may lead to brain complications such as eclampsia. Visual symptoms are present in ∼25% of preeclamptic women suggesting the visual cortex to be altered during preeclampsia. Visual evoked potentials (VEPs) measure the functional neuronal integrity of the visual pathway from retina to the occipital cortex of the brain. The objective of this study was to compare neurophysiological changes in women with preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, using VEPs. We hypothesized that women with preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy develop abnormal latency and amplitude of VEPs as compared with normotensive pregnant women.

Methods:

We performed a prospective observational study in 15 women with mild preeclampsia, 33 with severe preeclampsia (sPE), eight women with chronic hypertension, nine with pregnancy-induced hypertension, and 29 normotensive pregnant women. VEP measurements were made at four different time points of gestation (12–14 weeks, 26–28 weeks, 32–34 weeks, 36–40 weeks) and 6–8 weeks postpartum.

Results:

We defined reference values for normotensive pregnant women. Normotensive pregnant women had a shorter latency during pregnancy compared to their postpartum value (P = 0.005). Women with sPE had a prolonged latency of VEPs compared with normotensive pregnant women (P = 0.006), a difference that disappeared postpartum.

Conclusion:

Our study showed neurophysiological adaptation to pregnancy of the visual cortex in normotensive pregnant women, that seemed to be absent in women with sPE. The study groups of women with chronic hypertension and pregnancy-induced hypertension were to small to draw any conslusions from.

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