Contractile reserve in patients with peripartum cardiomyopathy and recovered left ventricular function


      OBJECTIVES: Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare complication of pregnancy. Thirty percent of patients with this disorder are reported to recover baseline ventricular function within 6 months of delivery, but the ability of these ventricles to respond to hemodynamic stress is unknown. The aim of this investigation was to quantitatively assess the contractile reserve of patients with a history of peripartum cardiomyopathy and recovered left ventricular function. STUDY DESIGN: Baseline left ventricular contractility was assessed by use of the load and heart rate–independent relationship between end-systolic stress and rate-corrected velocity of fiber shortening. Data were acquired from “recovered” patients (10.5 ± 11.6 months after delivery) and compared with data from matched nonpregnant controls with use of two-dimensionally targeted M-mode echocardiography and calibrated subclavian pulse tracings that were recorded over a wide range of afterloads (end-systolic stress) generated by methoxamine (1 mg/min) infusion. Contractile reserve was assessed by a dobutamine challenge (5 μg/kg/min) and quantified as the vertical deviation of the dobutamine end-systolic stress minus the corrected velocity of fiber shortening data point from the baseline contractility line. RESULTS: Patients with peripartum cardiomyopathy and matched controls had normal baseline heart rates, blood pressures, ventricular dimensions, and left ventricular function. Contractile reserve, however, was reduced in patients with recovered peripartum cardiomyopathy (0.30 ± 0.12 vs 0.17 ± 0.04 circ/sec, p < 0.03). CONCLUSIONS: Women with a history of peripartum cardiomyopathy who have regained normal resting left ventricular size and performance have decreased contractile reserve revealed by the use of a dobutamine challenge test. Ventricles of these women may respond suboptimally to hemodynamic stress in spite of evidence of recovery by routine echocardiographic evaluation. (Am J Obstet Gynecol 1997;176:189-95.)


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