In medicine, there are many diseases and conditions that pose significant challenges to health care practitioners. For example, within brain science, there are patients with debilitating neurodegenerative diseases; within emergency medicine, there are patients who have suffered severe and acute trauma; within pediatrics, there are patients with terminal illnesses, such as cancer. In ob.gyn., one of the great obstetrical syndromes is preeclampsia.
Humans have known about preeclampsia for thousands of years, dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries B.C., since the time of Hippocrates. Ancient writings on medical conditions of women reflect a recognition of preeclampsia and eclampsia, although formal classification of the condition as a hypertensive disorder associated specifically with pregnancy did not occur until the late 1800s. Despite this, the pathology of preeclampsia is significantly underdefined, and because the underlying causes of preeclampsia are largely unknown, prevention and management continue to be hindered.
Dr. E. Albert Reece
Our approach to managing women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy has been one predicated on watchfulness and appropriate timing of delivery. Pharmacologic interventions have been primarily practical and not heavily reliant on scientific evidence. Use of magnesium sulfate is based on temporizing outcomes; use of aspirin and bed rest are similar.
However, recent research indicating an association between statin use and prevention of preeclampsia has given us some hope that targeted management is possible. As ob.gyns. continue to grapple with the intricacies of managing patients with preeclampsia, a condition we increasingly see because of concurrent rises in being overweight, being obese, and having diabetes during pregnancy, so we are eager to see whether the research might confirm an effective role for statins in patient care. Although statins are still quite far from becoming a new standard of care, we are, as a specialty, hungry for a solution to this millennia-old problem.
Therefore, this month we have invited Maged Costantine, MD, an associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology and division of maternal fetal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, to discuss this novel and exciting new area of research.
Dr. Reece, who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine, is vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, as well as the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the school of medicine. Dr. Reece said he had no relevant financial disclosures. He is the medical editor of this column. Contact him at [email protected].