Cardiovascular adaptions, such as cardiac and uterine spiral arterial remodeling, and aortic arterial stiffening during pregnancy have been extensively investigated, while the interactions between the elastic artery and the left ventricle are poorly understood. This study was to evaluate the cardiac-arterial coupling in both normal pregnancy and preeclampsia using ultrasound techniques.
Twenty-three preeclamptic women with no antihypertensive treatment prior to admission, and 40 age- (27.2 ± 3.0 y vs. 29.1 ± 5.7 y, p = 0.0805) and gestational week- (35.6 ± 3.4 wk vs. 34.8 ± 3.6 wk, p = 0.3573) matched normotensive pregnant women were included. All women signed informed consent. All were nulliparas, had singleton pregnancies, and had no other risk factors for arterial stiffening. Carotid and cardiac ultrasound was performed using a MylabTwice ultrasound unit (Esaote, Italy). Cardiac and carotid remodeling and their associations were analyzed. Left ventriculo-carotid coupling was characterized by the ratio between the arterial elastance (Ea) and the left ventricular systolic elastance (Ees). Follow-up study was performed 16–20 months after parturition.
Left ventricular and carotid arterial remodeling was seen more frequently in preeclamptic women than in normal pregnant controls (96% vs. 40%, 82% vs. 48%, both p < 0.0001). The relative carotid arterial wall thickness showed no significant difference between the two groups. However, the carotid cross-sectional area, a surrogate for carotid arterial mass, was significantly greater in preeclampsia than that in normal controls (11.23 ± 0.17 mm2 vs. 8.58 ± 1.88 mm2, p < 0.00001). Carotid arterial stiffness and intima-media thickness correlated significantly with cardiac diastolic function parameters and blood pressures (p < 0.05). Both Ea and Ees were significantly greater in preeclampsia, compared with values in normal pregnant controls (Ea: 2.41 ± 0.57 mmHg/ml vs. 1.98 ± 0.46 mmHg/ml, p = 0.0005; Ees: 11.68 ± 9.51 m/s2 vs. 6.91 ± 6.13 m/s2, p = 0.002). However, there was no significant difference in the left ventriculo-carotid coupling index, Ea/Ees, between the two groups. Carotid remodeling persisted in both preeclamptic women and normal pregnant controls 16–20 months after parturition.
Significant cardiac and carotid remodeling and similar left ventriculo-carotid coupling were observed in both preeclampsia and normal pregnancy. Carotid remodeling may persist postpartum. Further studies with larger populations are needed to confirm these findings.