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Crit Care Med. 2006 Sep;34(9 Suppl):S208-14.

Obstetric critical care: a blueprint for improved outcomes.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Medical Center, Groningen, The Netherlands.



Obstetric patients are generally young and healthy. However, the potential for catastrophic complications is real, and despite the therapeutic advances of the last few decades, maternal morbidity and mortality continue to occur. This may be related to the pregnancy itself, aggravation of a preexisting illness, or complications of the (operative) delivery.


The purpose of this review is two-fold: first, to provide an update on currently available reports pertaining to important critical care issues of the obstetric patient population and, second, to present current comprehensive treatment options for preeclampsia and massive obstetric hemorrhage because both are responsible for the majority of maternal mortality and morbidity worldwide.


The most common reasons for intensive care unit admission are hypertensive disorders and massive obstetric hemorrhage. Timely delivery and prompt initiation of antihypertensive therapy for severe hypertension form the mainstay of care in preeclampsia. Restoration of circulating blood volume and rapid control of bleeding and impaired coagulation are the main factors in the management of massive obstetric hemorrhage. Puerperal morbidity has become the main topic of quality of care issues in maternity care. Although the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score is commonly used in the intensive care unit, it does not seem to be appropriate for pregnant women because it overestimates their mortality rates. A high-dependency care unit suits the needs for at least half of the obstetric patient population in need of higher acuity care and will save considerable cost.


Emphasis on early detection of maternal problems and prompt referral to tertiary centers with intensive care unit facilities to provide optimum care of the circulation, blood pressure, and respiration at an early stage could minimize the prevalence of multiple organ failure and mortality in critically ill obstetric patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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