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A Journal on Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Minerva Ginecologica 2012 October;64(5):361-73

language: English

Peripartum cardiomyopathy. An update

Güder G. 1, 2, Brenner S. 1, 2, Angermann C. E. 1, 2, Störk S. 1, 2

1 Comprehensive Heart Failure Center, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany;
2 Department of Internal Medicine I, Cardiology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany


Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a rare disease of the heart muscle that affects women with previously unknown heart diseases during pregnancy or in the first months after delivery.
Cardinal symptoms are dyspnoea and fluid retention. However, tachycardia, cardiogenic thromboembolism and other clinical signs of cardiac dysfunction may also herald this uncommon cause of heart failure. The estimated incidence of PPCM shows large regional variations: in Europe and the United States it is between 1:2000 and 1:4000. The markedly higher incidence rates observed in Haitian or South African women (up to 1:300) suggest that genetic or environmental factors may play a pathogenetic role. However, the underlying aetiology of PPCM still is unclear. Besides genetic susceptibility an abnormal autoimmune response against cardiac tissue components, viral infections or an irregular activity of cathepsin D generating a potentially cardio-toxic splice variant of prolactin have been discussed. New therapeutic strategies as immune modulation or prolactin inhibition were therefore suggested, but are not yet established. Treatment strategies focus on the standard therapies for heart failure and its complications. During pregnancy heart failure therapy is limited to substances without fetotoxic effects. But even with optimal heart failure therapy the course of the disease exhibits large variations ranging from full recovery to deterioration of heart function and even early cardiac death.
This review cumulates the current knowledge on PPCM and aims to raise awareness for this rare and potentially life-threatening disorder amongst all medical professionals involved in the care for pregnant women.

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