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BMJ. 2003 Oct 25;327(7421):955-60.

Hydralazine for treatment of severe hypertension in pregnancy: meta-analysis.

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University of British Columbia, BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre, 4500 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6H 3N1.



To review outcomes in randomised controlled trials comparing hydralazine against other antihypertensives for severe hypertension in pregnancy.


Meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (published between 1966 and September 2002) of short acting antihypertensives for severe hypertension in pregnancy. Independent data abstraction by two reviewers. Data were entered into RevMan software for analysis (fixed effects model, relative risk and 95% confidence interval); in a secondary analysis, risk difference was also calculated.


Of 21 trials (893 women), eight compared hydralazine with nifedipine and five with labetalol. Hydralazine was associated with a trend towards less persistent severe hypertension than labetalol (relative risk 0.29 (95% confidence interval 0.08 to 1.04); two trials), but more severe hypertension than nifedipine or isradipine (1.41 (0.95 to 2.09); four trials); there was significant heterogeneity in outcome between trials and differences in methodological quality. Hydralazine was associated with more maternal hypotension (3.29 (1.50 to 7.23); 13 trials); more caesarean sections (1.30 (1.08 to 1.59); 14 trials); more placental abruption (4.17 (1.19 to 14.28); five trials); more maternal oliguria (4.00 (1.22 to 12.50); three trials); more adverse effects on fetal heart rate (2.04 (1.32 to 3.16); 12 trials); and more low Apgar scores at one minute (2.70 (1.27 to 5.88); three trials). For all but Apgar scores, analysis by risk difference showed heterogeneity between trials. Hydralazine was associated with more maternal side effects (1.50 (1.16 to 1.94); 12 trials) and with less neonatal bradycardia than labetalol (risk difference -0.24 (-0.42 to -0.06); three trials).


The results are not robust enough to guide clinical practice, but they do not support use of hydralazine as first line for treatment of severe hypertension in pregnancy. Adequately powered clinical trials are needed, with a comparison of labetalol and nifedipine showing the most promise.

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