Management of pre-eclampsia: issues for anaesthetists


  • A. T. Dennis

    1. Director of Anaesthesia Research, Department of Anaesthesia, The Royal Women’s Hospital Parkville and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Correspondence to: A. Dennis


Pre-eclampsia is a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality. Substandard care is often present and many deaths are preventable. The aim of this review is to summarise the key management issues for anaesthetists in the light of the current literature. A systematic literature search of electronic databases was undertaken including MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library using the key words obstetrics, pregnancy, pregnancy complications, maternal, pre-eclampsia, preeclampsia, cardiac function, haemodynamics, haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelets (HELLP), eclampsia, anaesthesia, anesthesia, neuraxial. Relevant Colleges and Societies websites were examined for pertinent guidelines. The disease is defined within the context of hypertensive diseases, and early recognition of pre-eclampsia and its complications, as well as multidisciplinary expert team management is highlighted. Accurate monitoring and recording of observations including the use of transthoracic echocardiography is discussed. The importance of the treatment of systolic blood pressure > 180 mmHg and the use of intravenous antihypertensive medication as well as the use of parenteral magnesium sulphate for the treatment and prevention of eclampsia is emphasised . Restricted intravenous fluid therapy and avoidance of ergometrine is discussed. Neuraxial analgesia and anaesthesia, and general anaesthesia for birth is summarised as well as postpartum management including analgesia, thromboprophylaxis, management of acute pulmonary oedema and the use of pharmacological agents in the setting of breastfeeding.