Background Approximately 60% of women have Stage B heart failure 1 year after a preeclamptic delivery. Emerging evidence suggests that the profibrotic growth factor activin A, which has been shown to induce cardiac fibrosis and hypertrophy, is elevated in preeclampsia and may be inhibited by aspirin therapy. We hypothesized that preeclamptic women receiving aspirin would have lower activin A levels and reduced global longitudinal strain (GLS), a sensitive measure of cardiac dysfunction, than women who do not receive aspirin. To test our hypothesis, we performed a cohort study of women with preeclampsia or superimposed preeclampsia and compared activin A levels and GLS in parturients who did or did not receive aspirin. Methods and Results Ninety-two parturients were enrolled, of whom 25 (27%) received aspirin (81 mg/day) therapy. GLS, plasma activin A, and follistatin, which inactivates activin A, were measured. Women receiving aspirin therapy had lower median (interquartile range) levels of activin A (8.17 [3.70, 10.36] versus 12.77 [8.37, 31.25] ng/mL; P=0.001) and lower activin/follistatin ratio (0.59 [0.31, 0.93] versus 1.01 [0.64, 2.60] P=0.002) than women who did not receive aspirin, which also remained significant after multivariable analysis. Furthermore, GLS was worse in patients who did not receive aspirin (-19.84±2.50 versus -17.77±2.60%; P=0.03) despite no differences in blood pressure between groups. Conclusions Our study suggests that antepartum aspirin therapy reduced serum activin A levels and improved GLS in preeclamptic patients, suggesting that aspirin may mitigate the postpartum cardiac dysfunction seen in women with preeclampsia.
Keywords: activin A; aspirin; cardiac dysfunction; global longitudinal strain; pregnancy.