Children of Preeclamptic Mothers at Risk for Pulmonary Hypertension


SAN DIEGO — Children born to preeclamptic mothers are more likely to have pulmonary hypertension, compared with children born from uncomplicated pregnancies, results from a small study have demonstrated.

The finding provides “the very first evidence that preeclampsia leaves a persistent and potentially fatal imprint in the pulmonary circulation of the offspring, which predisposes them to exaggerated hypoxic pulmonary hypertension in later life,” Pierre-Yves Jayet, M.D., reported at a meeting sponsored by the American Physiological Society.

As part of an ongoing collaboration between the University Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Swiss Cardiovascular Research Institute in Bern, and the Bolivian High Altitude Research Institute in La Paz.

Dr. Jayet and his associates hypothesized that children born to mothers who had preeclampsia are predisposed to pulmonary hypertension at high altitude. To test this hypothesis, the investigators used echocardiography to measure systolic pulmonary artery pressure in 11 children aged 6-8 years who were born to preeclamptic mothers from La Paz, where the elevation ranges from 12,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level.

For a control group, they evaluated 13 age- and gender-matched children in La Paz born from normal pregnancies, said Dr. Jayet of the department of internal medicine at University Hospital in Lausanne.

The mean systolic pulmonary artery pressure was about 33% higher in children born to preeclamptic mothers, compared with those born from uncomplicated pregnancies (36 mm Hg vs. 27 mm Hg, respectively). Dr. Jayet noted that the hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction was not related to more severe hypoxemia or exaggerated polyglobulia.

He said the next step is to study animal models to determine the underlying mechanism of action that causes pulmonary vascular damage in children of preeclamptic mothers.

The Swiss National Science Foundation supported the study.

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