Pulse Report: University of Iowa Health Care

by Katie Gates in Impact

Heart to Heart Grant recipient, University of Iowa Health Care team makes headway on research focused on enhancing care and improving cardiovascular decisions and outcomes in pregnancy.

It has been one year since Drs. Debra Brandt, Donna Santillan, and Mark Santillan were announced as recipients of the 2020 Heart to Heart Grant. Their research project aims to study the effects of body positioning on blood pressure measurements in pregnant women.

We checked in with their team for progress and learned more about how their research can impact maternal care in the United States.

Blood pressure measurement is the most critical vital sign for identifying preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure; however, decades of research on proper placement and technique has largely omitted pregnant women.

The project has enrolled 72 pregnant patients. Following an interim analysis of 61 patients in four different blood pressure measurement positions (see below), they concluded that the semi-Fowler’s position is a reasonable alternative to the gold-standard. Additionally, the team found that, compared to the gold-standard, there were significant differences in blood pressure measurement using the seated without back and arm support and left lateral recumbent positions, two positions frequently used when taking pregnant patients’ blood pressure.

To aid in unmasking the possibly elevated readings attributed to white coat hypertension, the University of Iowa Health Care team is now focused on enrolling more outpatient participants and distributing Withings Wifi-enabled blood pressure monitors for patients to use for at-home readings. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends home blood pressure monitoring for those with chronic high blood pressure or gestational hypertension and those at risk of preeclampsia.

Isabella Nibaur (Delta Epsilon-Iowa)

This year’s research team features seven undergraduate members of Delta Epsilon (Iowa) Chapter. Each of these women received training in human subjects research and the gold-standard technique for manually measuring blood pressure and certifications to take measurements independently.

“The experiences and patients I get to work with each shape me into the nurse I want to become, and now having the opportunity to work as a research assistant on this team, I get to deepen my knowledge of critical health issues present in the healthcare system,” shares Isabella Nibaur (Delta Epsilon-Iowa), a second-year student at the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing.

As a part of their plan to widely distribute their findings and inform clinical practice, the 2020 Heart to Heart Grant recipient has presented their interim analysis at the 2020 American Heart Association Blood Pressure Council Meeting and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Annual Pregnancy Meeting. Their next presentation will be at the Midwest Nursing Research Society Meeting in March 2021.

Women’s Heart Health Program

Through donors’ generosity, Alpha Phi Foundation granted over $1.3M to heart health-focused projects and organizations through the Heart to Heart Grant. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in North America. For 28 years, the Heart to Heart Grant has invested in female-focused cardiovascular research and educational initiatives through its annual Heart to Heart Grant. Learn more about the Women’s Heart Health Program.

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