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Clin Chest Med. 1992 Dec;13(4):723-40.

Acute respiratory failure in pregnancy.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.


Acute respiratory failure in pregnancy is an important cause of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Causes include: ARDS, venous air embolism, beta-adrenergic tocolytic therapy, asthma, thromboembolic disease, pneumothorax, and pneumomediastinum. The most common predisposing diseases for ARDS complicating pregnancy are sepsis, pneumonia, aspiration of gastric contents, and amniotic fluid embolism. Knowledge of normal maternal-fetal physiology and determinants of fetal oxygen delivery (uterine blood flow, placental transfer, fetal circulation) can help sustain normal fetal development, usually without compromising maternal care. The increased microvascular permeability seen in ARDS is likely mediated by neutrophils, proinflammatory mediators (e.g., tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-1, arachidonic acid metabolites) and activation of the complement cascade. Treatment of respiratory failure in pregnancy is largely supportive, including mechanical ventilation, hemodynamic support, nutrition, and prophylaxis against thromboembolism. No specific therapy has as yet been proven effective for ARDS, other than treating the underlying cause. Respiratory failure from status asthmaticus is treated with vigorous bronchodilator therapy, high-dose glucocorticosteroids, magnesium sulfate, and careful ventilator management. Occasionally, more experimental therapies (e.g., isoproterenol infusion, halothane anesthesia) are indicated. Certain strategies can help prevent respiratory failure from aspiration of gastric contents, beta-adrenergic tocolytic therapy, and thromboembolic disease.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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