Characterizing placental stiffness using ultrasound shear-wave elastography in healthy and preeclamptic pregnancies

Michail Spiliopoulos, Che Ying Kuo, Avinash Eranki, Marni Jacobs, Christopher T. Rossi, Sara N. Iqbal, John P. Fisher, Melissa H. Fries, Peter C.W. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: To measure the stiffness of the placenta in healthy and preeclamptic patients in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy using ultrasound shear-wave elastography (SWE). We also aimed to evaluate the effect of age, gestational age, gravidity, parity and body mass index (BMI) on placental stiffness and a possible correlation of stiffness with perinatal outcomes. Methods: In a case–control study, we recruited a total of 47 singleton pregnancies in the second and third trimesters of which 24 were healthy and 23 were diagnosed with preeclampsia. In vivo placental stiffness was measured once at the time of recruitment for each patient. Pregnancies with posterior placentas, multiple gestation, gestational hypertension, chronic hypertension, diabetes, autoimmune disease, fetal growth restriction and congenital anomalies were excluded. Results: The mean placental stiffness was significantly higher in preeclamptic pregnancies compared to controls in the third trimester (difference of means = 16.8; 95% CI (9.0, 24.5); P < 0.001). There were no significant differences in placental stiffness between the two groups in the second trimester or between the severe preeclampsia and preeclampsia without severe features groups (difference of means = 9.86; 95% CI (−5.95, 25.7); P ≥ 0.05). Peripheral regions of the placenta were significantly stiffer than central regions in the preeclamptic group (difference of means = 10.67; 95% CI (0.07, 21.27); P < 0.05), which was not observed in the control group (difference of means = 0.55; 95% CI (− 5.25, 6.35); P > 0.05). We did not identify a correlation of placental stiffness with gestational age, maternal age, gravidity or parity. However, there was a statistically significant correlation with BMI (P < 0.05). In addition, pregnancies with higher placental stiffness during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters had significantly reduced birth weight (2890 ± 176 vs. 2420 ± 219 g) and earlier GA (37.8 ± 0.84 vs. 34.3 ± 0.98 weeks) at delivery (P < 0.05). Conclusion: Compared to healthy pregnancies, placentas of preeclamptic pregnancies are stiffer and more heterogeneous. Placental stiffness is not affected by gestational age or the severity of preeclampsia but there is a correlation with higher BMI and poor perinatal outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1103-1112
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of gynecology and obstetrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • In vivo
  • Placenta
  • Preeclampsia
  • Shear-wave elastography
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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