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Obstet Gynecol. 2001 Nov;98(5 Pt 1):757-62.

Obesity and preeclampsia: the potential role of inflammation.

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Renal Unit, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.



Systemic inflammation might contribute to the pathogenesis of preeclampsia. In addition, the association between obesity and inflammation in preeclampsia has not been examined in detail. We determined whether first-trimester elevation of serum C-reactive protein, an index of systemic inflammation, was associated with preeclampsia.


We conducted a prospective, nested case-control study among women enrolled in the Massachusetts General Hospital Obstetrical Maternal Study cohort. High-resolution C-reactive protein assays were performed on first-trimester (11 +/- 2 weeks' gestation) serum samples in 40 women in whom preeclampsia developed (blood pressure [BP] greater than 140/90 mmHg, and proteinuria, either 2+ or more by dipstick or greater than 300 mg per 24 hours), and in 80 matched controls. This sample size had greater than 80% power to detect a difference in C-reactive protein levels between cases and controls. We used nonparametric tests to compare C-reactive protein levels and conditional logistic regression to control for confounding variables.


First-trimester C-reactive protein levels were significantly higher among women in whom preeclampsia subsequently developed compared with controls (4.6 compared with 2.3 mg/L, P =.04). When women were subdivided into C-reactive protein quartiles, the odds ratio (OR) of being in the highest quartile of C-reactive protein was 3.2 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1, 9.3, P =.02) among cases of preeclampsia compared with controls. When body mass index (BMI) was added to the multivariable model, the highest quartile of C-reactive protein was no longer associated with increased risk of preeclampsia (OR 1.1, 95% CI.3, 4.3, P =.94). In the same model without BMI, the highest quartile of C-reactive protein was associated with increased risk of preeclampsia (OR 3.5, 95% CI 1.3, 9.5, P =.01).


In women with preeclampsia, there was evidence of increased systemic inflammation in the first trimester. Inflammation might be part of a causal pathway through which obesity predisposes to preeclampsia.

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