Pregnancy-associated heart failure: a comparison of clinical presentation and outcome between hypertensive heart failure of pregnancy and idiopathic peripartum cardiomyopathy

AIMS: There is controversy regarding the inclusion of patients with hypertension among cases of peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), as the practice has contributed significantly to the discrepancy in reported characteristics of PPCM. We sought to determine whether hypertensive heart failure of pregnancy (HHFP) (i.e., peripartum cardiac failure associated with any form of hypertension) and PPCM have similar or different clinical features and outcome. Methods and RESULTS: We compared the time of onset of symptoms, clinical profile (including electrocardiographic [ECG] and echocardiographic features) and outcome of patients with HHFP (n = 53; age 29.6 ± 6.6 years) and PPCM (n = 30; age 31.5 ± 7.5 years). The onset of symptoms was postpartum in all PPCM patients, whereas it was antepartum in 85% of HHFP cases (p<0.001). PPCM was more significantly associated with the following features than HHFP (p<0.05): twin pregnancy, smoking, cardiomegaly with lower left ventricular ejection fraction on echocardiography, and longer QRS duration, QRS abnormalities, left atrial hypertrophy, left bundle branch block, T wave inversion and atrial fibrillation on ECG. By contrast, HHFP patients were significantly more likely (p<0.05) to have a family history of hypertension, hypertension and pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy, tachycardia at presentation on ECG, and left ventricular hypertrophy on echocardiography. Chronic heart failure, intra-cardiac thrombus and pulmonary hypertension were found significantly more commonly in PPCM than in HHFP (p<0.05). There were 5 deaths in the PPCM group compared to none among HHFP cases (p = 0.005) during follow-up. CONCLUSION: There are significant differences in the time of onset of heart failure, clinical, ECG and echocardiographic features, and outcome of HHFP compared to PPCM, indicating that the presence of hypertension in pregnancy-associated heart failure may not fit the case definition of idiopathic PPCM.