Maternal Cardiovascular Function in Normal Pregnancy: Evidence of Maladaptation to Chronic Volume Overload.

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Melchiorre, K ; Sharma, R ; Khalil, A ; Thilaganathan, B (2016)

The aim of this study was to investigate cardiac functional status in pregnancy using a comprehensive approach taking into account the simultaneous changes in loading and geometry, as well as maternal age and anthropometric indices. This was a prospective cross-sectional study of 559 nulliparous pregnant women assessed at 4 time points during pregnancy and at 1 year postpartum. All women underwent conventional echocardiography and tissue Doppler velocities and strain rate analysis at multiple cardiac sites. Mean arterial pressure and total vascular resistance index significantly decreased (both P<0.001) during the first 2 trimesters of pregnancy and increased thereafter. Stroke volume index and cardiac index showed the opposite trend compared with mean arterial pressure and total vascular resistance index (both P<0.05). Myocardial and ventricular function were significantly enhanced in the first 2 trimesters but progressively declined thereafter. By the end of pregnancy, significant chamber diastolic dysfunction and impaired myocardial relaxation was evident in 17.9% and 28.4% of women, respectively, whereas myocardial contractility was preserved. There was full recovery of cardiac function at 1 year postpartum. Cardiovascular changes during pregnancy are thought to represent a physiological adaptation to volume overload. The findings of a drop in stroke volume index, impaired myocardial relaxation with diastolic dysfunction, and a tendency toward eccentric remodeling in a significant proportion of cases at term are suggestive of cardiovascular maladaptation to the volume-overloaded state in some apparently normal pregnancies. These unexpected cardiovascular findings have important implications for the management of both normal and pathological pregnancy states.
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