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OBJECTIVE: To determine whether changes in cerebral structure are present after preeclampsia that may explain increased cerebrovascular risk in these women. METHODS: We conducted a case control study in women between 5 and 15 years after either a preeclamptic or normotensive pregnancy. Brain MRI was performed. Analysis of white matter structure was undertaken using voxel-based segmentation of fluid-attenuation inversion recovery sequences to assess white matter lesion volume and diffusion tensor imaging to measure microstructural integrity. Voxel-based analysis of gray matter volumes was performed with adjustment for skull size. RESULTS: Thirty-four previously preeclamptic women (aged 42.8 ± 5.1 years) and 49 controls were included. Previously preeclamptic women had reduced cortical gray matter volume (523.2 ± 30.1 vs 544.4 ± 44.7 mL, p < 0.05) and, although both groups displayed white matter lesions, changes were more extensive in previously preeclamptic women. They displayed increased temporal lobe white matter disease (lesion volume: 23.2 ± 24.9 vs 10.9 ± 15.0 μL, p < 0.05) and altered microstructural integrity (radial diffusivity: 538 ± 19 vs 526 ± 18 × 10-6 mm2/s, p < 0.01), which also extended to occipital and parietal lobes. The degree of temporal lobe white matter change in previously preeclamptic women was independent of their current cardiovascular risk profile (p < 0.05) and increased with time from index pregnancy (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: A history of preeclampsia is associated with temporal lobe white matter changes and reduced cortical volume in young women, which is out of proportion to their classic cardiovascular risk profile. The severity of changes is proportional to time since pregnancy, which would be consistent with continued accumulation of damage after pregnancy.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1256 - 1264


Adult, Cardiovascular Diseases, Cerebral Cortex, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Female, Gray Matter, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Middle Aged, Pre-Eclampsia, Pregnancy, White Matter