Stroke Risk Factors in Pregnant Patients with Preeclampsia Discovered

Urinary tract infections, chronic high blood pressure, and blood disorders may increase the risk of pregnancy-related strokes.

A new study published by Stroke revealed several risk factors associated with an increased risk of stroke in women with preeclampsia, a pregnancy-related disorder characterized by high blood pressure.

The findings suggest that urinary tract infections, chronic high blood pressure, and bleeding/clotting disorders may pose an increased stroke risk among these patients.

Patients with preeclampsia have a high risk of experiencing stroke both during pregnancy and after delivery; however, pregnancy-related strokes are rare.

“Preeclampsia is a very complex disorder that’s not completely understood,” said lead study author Eliza Miller, MD. “Our study sought to discover if there are other risk factors or clues that may help identify the women with preeclampsia who are at the highest risk for pregnancy-related stroke. We were looking for risk factors that could be prevented or treated.”

Included in the study were data from 88,857 patients with preeclampsia who were admitted to hospitals in New York State between 2003 and 2012. During this time, 197 patients experienced a stroke, a majority of which occurred after birth. The authors reported that more than 1 in 10 strokes experienced by these patients were fatal.

The authors discovered that patients with the condition who experienced a stroke were 7 times more likely to have severe preeclampsia or eclampsia compared with those who did not experience a stroke, according to the study. Eclampsia is a condition where a patient experiences seizures during pregnancy or after birth.

Patients who experienced a pregnancy-related stroke were also 3 times more likely to have an infection compared with those who did not experience the event. Furthermore, these patients were more likely to have high blood pressure before developing preeclampsia or have a blood disorder compared with patients who did not experience a stroke.

The authors noted that the association between strokes and urinary tract infections were of particular interest since they are both preventable and highly treatable, according to the study.

While there is no cure for preeclampsia, monitoring blood pressure and understanding stroke risk factors may prevent harmful adverse events for the mother and fetus.

Since the authors used billing data, the level of detail limited them from drawing a staunch conclusion; however, they said their findings were strong enough to develop novel ideals for additional research, according to the study.

“Preeclampsia is a very common disorder, and a lot of people are not aware of its association with stroke,” Dr Miller said. “Women with preeclampsia should take any neurological symptoms, such as severe headache, very seriously, especially during the postpartum period. This needs to be a major focus of future stroke research in women.”