Background: Pregnancy represents a physiological adaptation to the transient load changes of maternal heart. This study aimed to investigate maternal left ventricle (LV) performance during normal pregnancy by three-dimensional speckle-tracking echocardiography (3D STE) parameters considering LV loading and shape.
Methods: Sequential two-dimensional echocardiography (2DE) and 3D STE were performed on 68 women during each pregnancy trimester and 6 to 9 weeks after delivery, while thirty age-matched, healthy, nonpregnant women served as controls. Global longitudinal strain (GLS), global circumferential strain (GCS), global area strain (GAS) and global radial strain (GRS) were measured.
Results: Increased cardiac index and progressive eccentric hypertrophy was detected, which subsequently recovered postpartum. In late pregnancy, GLS, GCS, GAS and GRS significantly decreased (P < 0.05) accompanied by a slight reduction of LV ejection fraction (EF) (P < 0.05), and these values returned postpartum to baseline level. All 3D strain indices correlated well with gestation age (P < 0.01), while compared to other components, GAS exhibited the strongest association with 3D EF (r = 0.549) and sphericity index (r = 0.328), and was the only parameter that correlated well with LV mass index (r = 0.22).
Conclusions: This study gives normal ranges of 3D STE indices in pregnancy. 3D STE demonstrated modified myocardial deformation and changes in maternal LV structure and function during the gestation period.