Thicker subcutaneous fat during pregnancy ups pre-eclampsia risk

07 Dec 2021
Thicker subcutaneous fat during pregnancy ups pre-eclampsia risk

Higher subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) thickness during the second trimester, measured using ultrasound, appears to increase the risk of pre-eclampsia, a recent study has found.

The study included 3,777 women who at around 18 weeks of gestation underwent ultrasound for the measurement of SAT and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) thickness. Pre-eclampsia was defined as de novo hypertension at ≥20 gestational weeks along with proteinuria.

During the study duration, 138 women developed pre-eclampsia, yielding an incidence rate of 3.7 percent. The pre-eclampsia group tended to have higher body mass index in early pregnancy and were more often nulliparous. Moreover, gestational length at delivery was shorter in pre-eclampsia women, and they also tended to give birth to infants with lower birthweight.

Moreover, SAT thickness was significantly higher in women who developed pre-eclampsia (2.04 vs 1.65 cm; p<0.001). The same was true for VAT (4.75 vs 4.16 cm; p<0.001).

Logistic regression analysis further verified that greater SAT thickness was a significant and independent correlate of pre-eclampsia, such that each centimetre increase in sat aggravated pre-eclampsia risk by 35 percent (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.35, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.02–1.79). VAT had a similar effect in unadjusted analysis but had been attenuated to borderline significance after multivariate adjustments (aOR, 1.11, 95 percent CI, 0.99–1.24).

“Further studies are needed to investigate the potential role of SAT and VAT thickness in the first- or early second trimester. Prediction models for preeclampsia used today need to improve their prediction performance. Adding SAT measurement to such a model might be the next step,” the researchers said.

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