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Lancet. 2001 Jan 20;357(9251):209-15.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of pre-eclampsia.

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University of Adelaide, Lyell McEwin Hospital, North Western Adelaide Health Service, SA, Australia.


Pre-eclampsia remains one of the major obstetrical problems in less-developed countries. The causes of this condition are still unknown, thus effective primary prevention is not possible at this stage. Research in the past decade has identified some major risk factors for pre-eclampsia, and manipulation of these factors might result in a decrease in its frequency. In the early 1990s aspirin was thought to be the wonder drug in secondary prevention of pre-eclampsia. Results of large trials have shown that this is not the case: if there is an indication for using aspirin it is in the patient at a very high risk of developing severe early-onset disease. The calcium story followed a more or less similar pattern, with the difference that existing evidence shows that women with a low dietary calcium intake are likely to benefit from calcium supplementation. Proper antenatal care and timed delivery are of utmost importance in tertiary prevention of pre-eclampsia. There is evidence to suggest that the intrinsic direct effect of moderate degrees of maternal hypertension is beneficial to the fetus. Severe hypertension needs treatment. If antihypertensive is indicated, there is no clear choice of a drug. Hydralazine should no longer be thought of as the primary drug, most studies show a preference for calcium channel blockers.

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