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Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2014;14(14):1195-200.

Not only a clinical nightmare: amniotic fluid embolism in court.

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Department of Anatomical, Histological, Medico-legal and Orthopaedic Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Viale Regina Elena 336 (00185) Rome, Italy.


Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) is an uncommon obstetric condition involving usually women in labour or in the early post-partum period. Clinical consequences of this unpredictable and unpreventable pathology may be extremely serious with high morbidity and mortality rates. Data obtained from the US Amniotic Fluid Embolism Registry show that the process is more similar to anaphylaxis than to embolism, and the term anaphylactoid syndrome of pregnancy has been suggested because foetal tissue or amniotic fluid components are not universally found in women who present signs and symptoms related to AFE. The first aim of this paper has been to focus on the medico-legal aspects concerning the misdiagnosis and the treatment of the AFE and the Authors, with this purpose in mind, reviewed the main national law cases on medical malpractice claims involving both physicians and hospitals. The second aim has been to highlight the need to introduce a National register as a useful tool to raise the awareness of this disease among physicians and to improve the quality of care, which can be achieved through a proper identification and reporting of AFE cases. The application of a national register may limit the number of medico-legal litigations, which according to the national and foreign Jurisprudence are not currently based in favour of the predictability of AFE, but they focus their discussion on the importance of a prompt medical assistance when the effects of this disorder occur.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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