AT ACOG 2017

SAN DIEGO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Women who have preeclampsia are at increased risk for later cardiovascular disease, yet internists performing well-woman exams were unlikely to have asked their patients about a history of preeclampsia, a small study showed.

Just 21 of 89 women were asked about preeclampsia during a well-woman exam, while 88 of 89 were asked about diabetes or smoking history, and all 89 were asked about hypertension (P = .0002 for comparing preeclampsia to each individual comorbidity).

“There is a screening gap leading to missed opportunities to identify women at risk for cardiovascular disease,” Irene Lewnard, MD, said at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

This is true, she said, despite that “preeclampsia meets or exceeds traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.” Preeclampsia can result in a two- to threefold elevation in risk for CVD, a figure in line with the increased risk seen for smokers and individuals with obesity or metabolic syndrome. However, the CVD risk for women who have had preterm preeclampsia may be eight or nine times higher than that seen in the general population, she said.

Dr. Lewnard and her colleagues at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, used a retrospective chart review to see whether internal medicine physicians were asking about preeclampsia as well as traditional CVD risk factors during well-woman exams.

The researchers looked at records from 89 women, aged 18-48 years, who had at least one prior delivery to see whether they were asked about preeclampsia. The review also assessed whether physicians had asked about traditional CVD risk factors: smoking, diabetes, and hypertension.

Of the 89 patients, 6 had a confirmed prior history of preeclampsia. The demographic characteristics and obstetric histories of these patients were not significantly different from those of the larger group. The mean patient age was about 35 years, and the average gravidity was three and parity was two.

Dr. Lewnard, an ob.gyn., and her colleagues looked at charts beginning Jan. 1, 2013, and ending May 31, 2016, after both the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) had issued guidelines that recognized the elevated CVD risk for women with a history of preeclampsia.

In 2011, the AHA issued guidelines that preeclampsia should be listed along with gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension as risk factors for CVD. The AHA called for ob.gyns. to refer patients with these conditions to primary care physicians or cardiologists for follow-up, and recommended that providers include questions about pregnancy-related CVD risk factors when taking a history.

In 2013, ACOG recommended early screening for heart disease for women with a history of preterm or recurrent preeclampsia, to include a consideration for early assessment of blood pressure, body mass index, serum lipids, and fasting blood glucose. The group also recommended counseling on modifiable lifestyle factors for these patients.

Data from several large studies support preeclampsia’s status as an independent risk factor for CVD. A 2001 Norwegian study of more than 600,000 births found that, for women who had preeclampsia and were delivered at term, the relative risk for death from cardiovascular disease was 1.65. However, when women with preeclampsia gave birth before 37 weeks’ gestation, the relative risk for later death from CVD rose to 8.12 ( BMJ. 2001;323[7323]:1213-7 ).

A 2007 systematic review and meta-analysis examined data from 3,488,160 women and found a relative risk of 2.16 for ischemic heart disease after an average 11.7 years of follow-up ( BMJ 2007;335:974 ). Finally, a smaller 2010 California study of 14,403 women found a hazard ratio of 2.14 for CVD-related deaths for all women with a history of preeclampsia. For women whose preeclampsia began before 34 weeks’ gestation, that hazard ratio rose to 9.54 ( Hypertension. 2010;56:166-71 ).

When Dr. Lewnard and her colleagues spoke with the internists who had participated in their study, several raised the point that there are not clear guidelines about how to incorporate a history of preeclampsia into risk calculators or treatment recommendations. This knowledge gap, she said, should be addressed, with an ultimate goal of establishing an interdisciplinary set of guidelines for counseling and management of women with prior preeclampsia.

The investigators are assessing whether adding prompts to the electronic medical record could increase the number of primary care physicians who include preeclampsia questions in their history taking.

Dr. Lewnard and her colleagues reported having no outside sources of funding and no conflicts of interest.

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