Multiple organ dysfunction followed by end organ failure occurs in pre-eclampsia. While one would intuitively reason that one of the factors contributing to the end organ failure is poor nutritional blood flow, this has yet to be demonstrated. The aim of the present study was to determine whether changes in resting nutritional blood flow occur in pre-eclampsia. We used strain-gauge plethysmography to study calf blood flow in 19 women with pre-eclampsia, 13 normal pregnant women and 17 non-pregnant controls. We reasoned that, since the calf comprises mostly skeletal muscle, without anastomotic channels, blood flowing through this region would primarily reflect nutritive flow. Calf blood flow was significantly reduced in women with pre-eclampsia (1.95±0.9 ml·min-1·100 ml-1) compared with normal pregnant (3.9±1.4 ml·min-1·100 ml-1) and non-pregnant (3.8±1.0 ml·min-1·100 ml-1) women (P = 0.0004 and P = 0.0005 respectively; ANOVA). Blood flow in pre-eclampsia was also correlated significantly with platelet count as an index of disease severity. In addition, there was a significant negative correlation between blood flow and systolic blood pressure (r = -0.69, P = 0.004) in the women with pre-eclampsia. These findings support the hypothesis that nutritional blood flow is reduced in pre-eclampsia. We suggest that measurement of resting calf blood flow could give a non-invasive index of deterioration of nutritive blood flow to vital organs in pre-eclampsia.

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