Pregnancy in women with primary antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is frequently associated with placental insufficiency leading to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)+/-fetal death, pre-eclampsia, placental abruption, premature delivery or thrombosis. The aim of this study was to investigate the placental bed in APS pregnancies for evidence of impaired trophoblast invasion, endothelial cell activation (ECA) and macrophage infiltration.
Methods: Biopsies from the presumed site of the placental bed were obtained from 12 women with treated primary APS and 16 controls. Immunohistochemical methods were employed to investigate expression of cytokeratin (trophoblasts), alpha-actin (smooth muscle), CD68 (macrophages) and VCAM-1 (as marker of ECA). Fibrinoid and elastin distribution and expression were determined by periodic acid/Schiff and orcein stain, respectively.
Results: Three APS pregnancies developed IUGR, one with concurrent pre-eclampsia. Eight of 12 APS biopsies were confirmed to be from the placental bed; one patient failed to meet APS criteria and was excluded from analysis; six included spiral arteries in the biopsy; 11 of 16 controls' biopsies were from the placental bed. APS biopsies had a higher concentration of inflammatory cells (p=0.0001), particularly macrophages (p=0.014). Three APS biopsies showed necrosis with hyperplastic vessels; one demonstrated arterial thromboses, but none had profound vasculopathy/atherosis or ECA.
Conclusion: Inflammatory mechanisms in the placental bed may contribute to APS pregnancy complications.