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Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2010 Aug;50(4):346-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-828X.2010.01200.x.

Audit of severe acute maternal morbidity describing reasons for transfer and potential preventability of admissions to ICU.

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Women's Health Research Centre, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.



Maternal mortality is a rare event in the developed world. Assessment of severe acute maternal morbidity (SAMM) is therefore an appropriate measure of the quality of maternity care.


The aim of the study was to conduct a retrospective audit of SAMM cases (pregnant women admitted to a New Zealand Intensive Care Unit) to describe clinical, socio-demographic characteristics, pregnancy outcomes and preventability.


Severe acute maternal morbidity cases were reviewed by a multidisciplinary panel to determine reasons for admission to ICU, to classify organ-system dysfunction and to determine whether the SAMM case was preventable or not. Inclusion criteria were: admission to ICU between 2005 and 2007 during pregnancy or within 42 days of delivery.


Twenty-nine SAMM cases were reviewed, of which 10 (35%) were deemed preventable. The most common reasons for transfer to ICU were: the need for invasive vascular monitoring, hypotension and disseminated intravascular coagulation. The most frequent types of preventable events were: inadequate diagnosis/recognition of high-risk status, inappropriate treatment, communication problems and inadequate documentation. All five SAMM cases of septicaemia were deemed preventable. Of the ten preventable cases, three were Maori (50% of the Maori in total audit), four were Pacific (67% of the Pacific in total audit) and three were women of 'other' ethnicities (17.6%, 3 of 17 in the audit).


An audit of SAMM cases describing reasons for transfer to ICU and preventability is feasible. We recommend that a prospective national SAMM audit process be introduced in New Zealand as a quality of care measure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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