Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) is a rare obstetric catastrophe that occurs suddenly and without warning. AFE is a condition that is poorly understood and often difficult to diagnose, but has a high maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Since it was first described in 1926, the underlying pathophysiology has eluded researchers and clinicians. While a new understanding of the syndrome has emerged with the advent of a national registry in the 1980s, recommendations for diagnostic methods and treatment in the acute phase of the event remain unclear.
The purpose of this article is to provide the reader with a historical look at the phenomenon of AFE, a description of its suspected pathophysiology, and recommendations for nursing interventions. A review of data from the national registry and other classic studies are included.