Eighty-nine maternal deaths occurred at Charity Hospital of New Orleans between 1965 and 1984, for an overall rate of 60.8 per 100,000 live births. The mortality rate increased with increasing maternal age, was greater with cesarean than vaginal delivery, and has not continued to decline over the 20-year interval. Of those decedents delivered abdominally, more than half of the deaths were attributable to operative complications, including anesthesia, rather than to an underlying disease. Although the majority of obstetric deaths were attributable to complications of hypertension, hemorrhage, and infection, the single most common cause at autopsy was pulmonary edema. Potentially preventable pulmonary edema was responsible for one-third of the obstetric deaths from hypertension and hemorrhage.
© 1987 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists