Purdue University Graduate School
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Hemodynamic and Geometric Changes of the Female Reproductive System in Health and Disease

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posted on 2020-05-05, 22:47 authored by Jessica L MaJessica L Ma

Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn mortality, with 15 million babies born premature worldwide every year. Children that do survive early delivery are more likely to develop cognitive abnormalities, motor deficits, heart disease, cerebral palsy, and more. While little is known about the pathophysiology of preterm birth, several pregnancy-related complications are related to preterm birth, namely cervical insufficiency and preeclampsia. In the former, premature cervical remodeling and softening can result in the shortening of the cervix, increasing a woman’s risk of preterm birth; this condition is called cervical insufficiency (CI), which is the inability of the cervix to remain closed as a result of weakened tissues. CI is currently measured by a one-dimensional sonographic cervical length, where < 25 mm indicates shortening. Preeclampsia is a disorder that can be explained through the Page kidney phenomenon: compression of the left renal vein (LRV) causes renal venous outflow obstruction, leading to elevated intrarenal pressure and hypertension. The supine pressor test (SPT) is a diagnostic tool for preeclampsia where a positive test is defined by an increase of 20 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure (BP) when shifting from the left lateral recumbent to the supine position. Due to the intense risk of morbidity and mortality for both the mother and the fetus, the need to monitor BP changes is critical. Currently, there is an unmet clinical need to characterize the hemodynamic and geometric properties of the female reproductive organs throughout gestation. Utilizing ultrasound imaging can increase our knowledge about the 3D anatomy and systemic changes during pregnancy, unravel risk factors, establish preventative methods, and standardize treatment plans. In this thesis research, we developed a murine model to 1) examine the pathophysiology of renal vein stenosis, and 2) investigate the effects of stenosis on various cervical dimensions. Renal vein stenosis was found to greatly impact blood flow velocities, as well as cervical width (p<0.05). LRV and cervical area and height also trend towards significance, and there is negative damage to the left kidney and placentae within the stenosed cohort. We also conducted a human study that showed reduced change in postural BP in patients with higher body mass index (BMI). Systolic and diastolic BP in the supine position was significantly greater than in the lateral position for all BMIs with a baseline increase in BP of approximately 9-14 mmHg. These findings suggest that therapeutic positioning and close monitoring of BP could mitigate the risk of developing related disorders in pregnancy.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering


  • Biomedical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Craig Goergen

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. David Reuter

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. George Wodicka