Swedish in Seattle to Study Connections Between Preeclampsia and Migraine

- $2.9 million research grant awarded by NIH; Findings could benefit

pregnant women worldwide

Sep 29, 2008, 01:00 ET from Swedish Medical Center

    SEATTLE, Sept. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Institute of
 Child Health and Human Development division of the National Institutes of
 Health (NIH) has awarded Michelle A. Williams, Sc.D., a $2.9 million grant
 for a five-year research project to examine possible linkages between the
 serious pregnancy complication known as preeclampsia and migraine.
     Dr. Williams is a co-founder and co-director of Swedish's Center for
 Perinatal Studies and one of the world's leading authorities on
 preeclampsia and other pregnancy concerns. She is also a professor of
 Epidemiology at the University of Washington.
     The research project, titled "A Prospective Cohort Study of Migraines,
 Platelet Activation and Preeclampsia," will be conducted by Dr. Williams
 and her co-investigator Sheena Aurora, M.D., a migraine specialist with the
 Swedish Pain and Headache Center. Together they will work with experts at
 the Puget Sound Blood Center.
     The goal of the research is to evaluate whether, and to what extent, a
 maternal pre-gestational history of migraines and migraine symptoms during
 early pregnancy are associated with the risk of preeclampsia.
     Preeclampsia is a vascular disorder characterized by high blood
 pressure and the presence of protein in the urine starting around
 mid-pregnancy. It occurs in up to 8 percent of all pregnancies and, in
 addition to other hypertensive disorders, is the leading global cause of
 maternal and infant illness and death.
     Migraine is a common chronic-episodic disorder characterized by severe,
 debilitating headaches. It is often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity
 to activity and/or external stimuli. Between 14 percent to 25 percent of
 women suffer from some form of migraine, which is more common during
 childbearing years.
     "There have been a few reports in the medical literature of connections
 between preeclampsia and migraine," said Dr. Williams. "If we can confirm a
 definitive link and identify women at higher risk of preeclampsia early
 enough, then we can monitor them and intervene when necessary."
     Starting this fall, Swedish will enroll approximately 2,000 women who
 are in their first trimester of pregnancy from obstetrics clinics
 affiliated with the medical center. As part of the study protocol, women
 who screen positive for migraine or indicate they have experienced it will
 have a follow-up interview with Dr. Aurora to confirm the diagnosis, and
 then be interviewed about their medical history. Enrolled women will be
 followed through to delivery and information will be collected during
 in-person interviews using study questionnaires.
     "We'll collect blood samples during routine prenatal exams, in part, to
 evaluate the role of platelet aggregation and activation in preeclampsia,"
 said Dr. Williams. "We're trying to go way beyond asking women to
 self-report and look at specific bio-markers in the blood."
     Platelets, a key element of blood clotting, are only activated when
 needed. For unclear reasons, higher clotting levels have been reported in
 migraine sufferers and women with preeclampsia. "That suggests a
 connection, but we need to test that hypothesis thoroughly," Dr. Williams
 noted. "Only then can we develop conclusions that have medical value and
 can be acted on."
     The research will also evaluate what prescription drugs study subjects
 take for migraines to determine if there are any clear connections between
 specific drugs and pregnancy outcomes.
     "There is important public health significance to this research," said
 Tanya Sorensen, M.D., co-director of Swedish's Center for Perinatal
 Studies. "Migraine is treatable and understanding it better may help
 clinicians reduce the significant problems associated with preeclampsia."
     Earlier this year, Dr. Williams was awarded a $495,554 grant from the
 March of Dimes Foundation to fund a three-year research project to identify
 pre-conceptional risk factors and biological markers of preeclampsia and
 preterm delivery in China.
     About Swedish
     Swedish is the largest, most comprehensive nonprofit health provider in
 the Greater Seattle area. It is comprised of three hospital campuses -
 First Hill, Cherry Hill and Ballard - a freestanding emergency department
 and specialty center in Issaquah, Home Care Services, and the Swedish
 Physician Division - a network of about 40 primary-care and specialty
 clinics located throughout King County. In addition to general medical and
 surgical care, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing
 specialized treatment in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer care,
 neuroscience, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, pediatrics, organ
 transplantation and clinical research. For more information, visit

SOURCE Swedish Medical Center