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Cardiac arrest in pregnancy and somatic support after brain death

Mallampalli, Antara MD; Guy, Elizabeth MD

doi: 10.1097/01.CCM.0000182788.31961.88
Scientific Reviews
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Objective: To review the important causes of cardiopulmonary arrest during pregnancy and the recommended modifications to resuscitation protocols when applied to pregnant patients, including the indications for perimortem cesarean section and the expected fetal outcomes, and to review the literature regarding extended somatic support after brain death during pregnancy.

Data Sources: MEDLINE review of publications relating to cardiac arrest and resuscitation in pregnancy, physiologic changes after brain death, and attempted somatic support of brain-dead pregnant women.

Conclusions: Cardiac arrest during pregnancy is rare, but it is important to recognize the causes, which may be either unrelated to pregnancy or unique to the pregnant woman. For the most part, the resuscitation protocol is the same as for nonpregnant victims of cardiac arrest, with a few important modifications, including especially the need for relieving aortocaval compression by the gravid uterus, the need for rapid intubation, and the importance of rapid perimortem cesarean delivery when indicated. In those rare cases of brain death occurring in a pregnant patient, continued somatic support of the mother may be possible, even for prolonged periods, to extend the pregnancy and further fetal maturation. The expected physiologic changes after brain death, challenges to successful somatic support, and specific recommendations regarding organ support of the brain-dead pregnant woman are reviewed.

From the Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.

© 2005 by the Society of Critical Care Medicine and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins