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Hypertension. 2005 Nov;46(5):1123-8. Epub 2005 Oct 17.

Changes in endothelial function precede the clinical disease in women in whom preeclampsia develops.

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The Institute of Cardiovascular Research, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK.


Endothelial dysfunction is important in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia. No study has examined endothelial function sequentially at different gestations before development of the clinical syndrome and after delivery (to compare maternal from placental influences). We sought to determine whether endothelial function changes before the clinical development of preeclampsia. We measured skin microvascular function using iontophoresis of acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside, and laser Doppler imaging at 22, 26, 34 weeks' gestation and 6 weeks postpartum in women identified as being at increased risk of preeclampsia, based on uterine artery Doppler waveforms at 18 to 20 weeks, and controls with normal Doppler waveforms. Fifty-four women remained normotensive and preeclampsia developed in 15. In normotensive and preeclamptic women, acetylcholine responses were augmented during pregnancy compared with postpartum responses (P<0.001). Sodium nitroprusside responses were augmented during pregnancy compared with those postpartum (P<0.005) in preeclamptic women only. Microvascular responses were augmented in women in whom preeclampsia developed, compared with those in normotensive women, at 26 and 34 weeks for acetylcholine (P<0.05 and P<0.001, respectively) and at 22 and 26 weeks for sodium nitroprusside (P<0.05 and P<0.02, respectively). Postpartum acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside responses were not significantly different between preeclamptic and normal women. Microvascular responses are enhanced during pregnancy in women in whom preeclampsia develops to a level above that seen in normotensive women. These changes precede the onset of clinical disease and might be related to a compensatory increased sensitivity of the microcirculation to nitric oxide.

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