Preeclampsia Associated Differences in the Placenta, Fetal Brain, and Maternal Heart Can Be Demonstrated Antenatally: An Observational Cohort Study Using MRI

Hypertension. 2024 Apr;81(4):836-847. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.123.22442. Epub 2024 Feb 5.


Background: Preeclampsia is a multiorgan disease of pregnancy that has short- and long-term implications for the woman and fetus, whose immediate impact is poorly understood. We present a novel multiorgan approach to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) investigation of preeclampsia, with the acquisition of maternal cardiac, placental, and fetal brain anatomic and functional imaging.

Methods: An observational study was performed recruiting 3 groups of pregnant women: those with preeclampsia, chronic hypertension, or no medical complications. All women underwent a cardiac MRI, and pregnant women underwent a placental-fetal MRI. Cardiac analysis for structural, morphological, and flow data were undertaken; placenta and fetal brain volumetric and T2* (which describes relative tissue oxygenation) data were obtained. All results were corrected for gestational age. A nonpregnant cohort was identified for inclusion in the statistical shape analysis.

Results: Seventy-eight MRIs were obtained during pregnancy. Cardiac MRI analysis demonstrated higher left ventricular mass in preeclampsia with 3-dimensional modeling revealing additional specific characteristics of eccentricity and outflow track remodeling. Pregnancies affected by preeclampsia demonstrated lower placental and fetal brain T2*. Within the preeclampsia group, 23% placental T2* results were consistent with controls, these were the only cases with normal placental histopathology. Fetal brain T2* results were consistent with normal controls in 31% of cases.

Conclusions: We present the first holistic assessment of the immediate implications of preeclampsia on maternal heart, placenta, and fetal brain. As well as having potential clinical implications for the risk stratification and management of women with preeclampsia, this gives an insight into the disease mechanism.

Keywords: hypertension; ischemic heart disease; magnetic resonance imaging; placenta; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Placenta* / pathology
  • Pre-Eclampsia*
  • Pregnancy