Stiffening of the barosensory vessel wall in hypertension has been suggested to play a role in the associated baroreflex impairment. The carotid distensibility–BRS (baroreflex sensitivity) relationship, however, has not been studied in pre-eclampsia, a condition where hypertension is spontaneously reversible. Twelve normotensive pregnant women and 12 patients with pre-eclampsia matched for maternal age and week of gestation were studied in the third trimester and 3 months postpartum. Carotid artery diastolic diameter and pulsatile distension was measured by echo-wall tracking and carotid pulse pressure by applanation tonometry, and the carotid distensibility coefficient was calculated. Spontaneous BRS was determined by the sequence and spectral methods from 10 min continuous recording of ECG and finger arterial blood pressure. In the third trimester, carotid distensibility was lower in patients with pre-eclampsia than in normotensive pregnant women (2.47±0.17 compared with 4.08±0.16×10−3/mmHg); postpartum, it increased moderately in patients, but remained below normotensive values (3.25±0.12 compared with 4.25±0.19×10−3/mmHg). In the third trimester, both patients and healthy pregnant women had equally low BRS values; postpartum, the various BRS indices increased markedly (by 60–190%) and to the same level in both groups. No correlation was found between changes in carotid artery distensibility and those in BRS from the third trimester to postpartum period in patients and healthy pregnant women. The lack of association between changes in carotid distensibility and BRS suggest that stiffening of the carotid artery in pre-eclampsia is not responsible for baroreflex dysfunction.

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