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The Use of Postpartum Hemorrhage Protocols in United States Academic Obstetric Anesthesia Units

Kacmar, Rachel M. MD*; Mhyre, Jill M. MD; Scavone, Barbara M. MD; Fuller, Andrea J. MD§; Toledo, Paloma MD, MPH*

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000399
Obstetric Anesthesiology: Research Report

BACKGROUND: Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is the leading cause of severe maternal morbidity, cardiac arrest, and death during the hospitalization for childbirth. Protocol-driven care has been associated with improved outcomes in many settings; the National Partnership for Maternal Safety now recommends that PPH protocols be implemented in every labor and delivery unit in the United States. In this study, we sought to identify the level of PPH protocol availability in academic United States obstetric units. We hypothesized that the majority (>80%) of academic obstetric anesthesia units would have a PPH protocol in place.

METHODS: A survey was developed by an expert panel. Domains included hospital characteristics, availability of PPH protocol or plans to develop such a protocol, and protocol components included in the upcoming National Partnership for Maternal Safety obstetric hemorrhage safety bundle initiative. The electronic survey was emailed to the 104 directors of United States academic obstetric anesthesia units. Responses were stratified by PPH protocol availability as appropriate. Univariate statistics were used to characterize survey responses and the probability distribution for PPH protocol availability was estimated using the binomial distribution.

RESULTS: The survey response rate was 58%. The percentage of responding units with a PPH protocol was lower than hypothesized (P = 0.03); there was a PPH protocol in 67% of responding units (N = 40, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 53%–78%). The median annual delivery volume for responding units with PPH protocol was 3900 vs 2300 for units without PPH protocol (P = 0.002), with no difference in cesarean delivery rate (P = 0.73) or observed PPH rate (P = 0.69). There was no difference in annual delivery volume between responding and nonresponding hospitals (P = 0.06), suggesting that academic centers with delivery volume >3200 births per year are more likely than smaller volume hospitals to have a PPH protocol in place (odds ratio 3.16 (95% CI: 1.01–9.90). Adjusting for delivery volume among nonresponding hospitals, we estimate that 67% (95% CI: 55%–77%) of all academic obstetric anesthesia units had a PPH protocol in place at the time of this survey. Institutional processes for escalation do not correlate with the presence of a PPH protocol. There was a massive transfusion protocol in 95% of units with a PPH protocol and in 90% of units without (95% CI of difference: −7% to 7%). A PPH code team or rapid response team was available in 57% of responding institutions, with no difference between units with or without a PPH protocol [mean difference 4%, 95% CI (−24% to 32%)].

CONCLUSIONS: Despite increasing emphasis on national quality improvement in patient safety, there are no PPH protocols in at least 20% of U.S. academic obstetric anesthesia units. Delivery volume is the most important variable predicting the presence of a PPH protocol. National efforts to ensure universal presence of a PPH protocol in all academic centers will achieve the greatest impact by focusing on small-volume facilities. Future work is needed to evaluate and facilitate PPH implementation in nonacademic obstetric units.

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From the *Department of Anesthesiology, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Anesthesiology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas; Department of Anesthesiology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; and §Department of Anesthesiology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, Colorado.

Accepted for publication July 1, 2014.

Funding: P.T. was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development program (award 69779, PI: Toledo). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

This report was previously presented, in part, at the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology 2013 Meeting.

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Address correspondence to Rachel M. Kacmar, MD, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, 12401 E. 17th Ave., Mailstop B113, Aurora, CO 80045. Address e-mail to

© 2014 International Anesthesia Research Society