Subtypes of Preeclampsia: Recognition and Determining Clinical Usefulness

James M. Roberts, Janet W. Rich-Edwards, Thomas F. McElrath, Lana Garmire, Leslie Myatt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


The concept that preeclampsia is a multisystemic syndrome is appreciated in both research and clinical care. Our understanding of pathophysiology recognizes the role of inflammation, oxidative and endoplasm reticulum stress, and angiogenic dysfunction. Yet, we have not progressed greatly toward clinically useful prediction nor had substantial success in prevention or treatment. One possibility is that the maternal syndrome may be reached through different pathophysiological pathways, that is, subtypes of preeclampsia, that in their specificity yield more clinical utility. For example, early and late onset preeclampsia are increasingly acknowledged as different pathophysiological processes leading to a common presentation. Other subtypes of preeclampsia are supported by disparate clinical outcomes, long-range prognosis, organ systems involved, and risk factors. These insights have been supplemented by discovery-driven methods, which cluster preeclampsia cases into groups indicating different pathophysiologies. In this presentation, we review likely subtypes based on current knowledge and suggest others. We present a consideration of the requirements for a clinically meaningful preeclampsia subtype. A useful subtype should (1) identify a specific pathophysiological pathway or (2) specifically indicate maternal or fetal outcome, (3) be recognizable in a clinically useful time frame, and (4) these results should be reproducible and generalizable (but at varying frequency) including in low resource settings. We recommend that the default consideration be that preeclampsia includes several subtypes rather than trying to force all cases into a single pathophysiological pathway. The recognition of subtypes and deciphering their different pathophysiologies will provide specific targets for prevention, prediction, and treatment directing personalized care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1430-1441
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • epidemiology
  • inflammation
  • prediction
  • preeclampsia
  • syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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