Conference Coverage

Pregnancy boosts cardiac disease mortality nearly 100-fold



– Women with cardiac disease who became pregnant had a nearly 100-fold higher mortality rate, compared with pregnant women without cardiac disease, according to the outcomes of more than 5,700 pregnancies in an international registry of women with cardiac disease.

Dr. Jolien Roos-Hesselink, cardiologist, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Jolien Roos-Hesselink

In addition to increased mortality, women with cardiac disease who become pregnant also had a greater than 100-fold higher rate of developing heart failure, compared with pregnant women without cardiac disease.

Despite these highly elevated relative risks, the absolute rate of serious complications from pregnancy for most women with heart disease was relatively modest. The worst prognosis by far was for the 1% of women in the registry who had pulmonary arterial hypertension at the time their pregnancy began. For these women, mortality during pregnancy was about 9%, and new-onset heart failure occurred in about one third. Another subgroup showing particularly poor outcomes were women classified with WHO IV maternal cardiovascular risk by the modified World Health Organization criteria, which corresponds to having an “extremely high risk of maternal mortality or severe morbidity,” according to guidelines published in the European Heart Journal (2011 Dec 1;32[24]:3147-97).These women, constituting 7% of the registry cohort, had a 2.5% mortality rate during pregnancy and a 33% incidence of heart failure.

Across all women with cardiac disease enrolled in the registry, the incidence of death during pregnancy was 0.6% and the incidence of heart failure was 11%. Women without cardiac disease have rates of 0.007% and less than 0.1%, respectively, Jolien Roos-Hesselink, MD, said at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology.

“The most important message of my talk is that all patients should be counseled, not just the women at high risk, for whom pregnancy is contraindicated, but also the women at low risk,” who can have a child with relative safety, she said. “Many women [with cardiac disease] can go through pregnancy at low risk.” Counseling is the key so that women know their risk before becoming pregnant, stressed Dr. Roos-Hesselink, a cardiologist at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Based on the observed rates of mortality and other complications, pulmonary arterial hypertension and the other cardiac conditions that define a WHO IV maternal risk classification remain contraindications for pregnancy, she said. According to the 2011 guidelines from the European Society of Cardiology for managing cardiovascular disease during pregnancy, the full list of conditions that define a WHO IV classification are the following:

  • Pulmonary arterial hypertension of any cause.
  • Severe systemic ventricular dysfunction (a left ventricular ejection fraction of less than 30%) or New York Heart Association functional class III or IV.
  • Previous peripartum cardiomyopathy with any residual impairment of left ventricular function.
  • Severe mitral stenosis or severe symptomatic aortic stenosis.
  • Marfan syndrome with the aorta dilated to more than 45 mm.
  • Aortic dilatation greater than 50 mm in aortic disease associated with a bicuspid aortic valve.
  • Native severe coarctation.

Next Article: