Peripartum cardiomyopathy: a selenium disconnection and an autoimmune connection

Int J Cardiol. 2002 Dec;86(2-3):311-6. doi: 10.1016/s0167-5273(02)00359-5.


Background: Increased incidence and prevalence of peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) have been documented in the Hospital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) District of Haiti. Although the basis for this increased incidence of PPCM remains unclear, there is growing evidence for an underlying autoimmune process. One potential risk factor for increased autoreactivity is a micronutrient deficiency. In Africa, low plasma selenium (Se) level has been reported as a possible risk factor for PPCM. This report details results of initial studies to test the hypothesis that plasma levels of Se and/or other micronutrients may be related to PPCM risk in this population.

Methods: Under the direction of the Institutional Review Board (HAS Ethics Committee) and with informed consent, levels of Se and other micronutrients were measured in plasma samples obtained from PPCM mothers and parity-matched control mothers from the HAS District of Haiti.

Results: Mean plasma Se level in 18 PPCM patients was 110 ng/ml (range 67-145) compared to mean plasma Se level in 34 control mothers of 121 ng/ml (range 98-172) (P=0.1748). These levels are substantially greater than those reported for pediatric patients with Keshan cardiomyopathy, which can be prevented by Se prophylaxis. No deficiency or significant difference was found in any other micronutrient tested (Vitamin A (retinol), Vitamin B(12), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and B-Carotene) for these PPCM and control mothers.

Conclusion: Although there are several possible mechanisms by which Se could play a role in the pathobiology of PPCM, there is no evidence that Se deficiency is a cause of PPCM or a risk factor for the development of PPCM in this district of Haiti. The results of this investigation indicate that future studies of PPCM in this population should focus on other potential etiologic and risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / analysis*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Cardiomyopathies / blood*
  • Cardiomyopathies / etiology
  • Cardiomyopathies / immunology*
  • Deficiency Diseases / blood*
  • Deficiency Diseases / complications
  • Deficiency Diseases / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Micronutrients / blood*
  • Micronutrients / deficiency
  • Puerperal Disorders / blood*
  • Puerperal Disorders / etiology
  • Puerperal Disorders / immunology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Risk Factors
  • Selenium / blood*
  • Selenium / deficiency


  • Antioxidants
  • Micronutrients
  • Selenium