07 Oct 06

Pulmonary embolism during and after pregnancy

Posted in Pregnancy, Venous thromboembolism at 9:57 by Laci

By S Stone, TA Morris

Critical Care Medicine. 2005;33(10)S294-S300

Venous thromboembolic disease is among the most common causes of morbidity and mortality during pregnancy. The clinical evaluation alone is insufficient for the diagnosis of venous thromboembolic disease, and the normal pregnant state makes this evaluation even more challenging.

Diagnosis
Objective testing is the mainstay of diagnosis, including compression ultrasound, impedance plethysmography, ventilation-perfusion scanning, computed tomography scanning, and pulmonary angiography. All of these tests can be safety performed during pregnancy.

Treatment
If deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism is diagnosed, anticoagulation should be initiated. Either (unfractionated) heparin or low molecular weight heparin is an acceptable treatment for acute venous thromboembolic disease. Both have risks and benefits, but both can be used safely during pregnancy. Intravenous heparin is the treatment of choice surrounding delivery due to its short half life. Because of the risk of adverse effects on the fetus, warfarin is not generally used during pregnancy. Unstable pulmonary embolism is difficult to treat during pregnancy, as there are minimal data regarding the safety and efficacy of thrombolytic therapy, inferior vena cava filters, and embolectomy during pregnancy. Case reports and case series suggest that thrombolytic therapy may be associated with lower risks of fetal loss than embolectomy.

Conclusions
Venous thromboembolic disease is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality during pregnancy and the puerperal period. Objective testing is critical to establish the diagnosis and can be safely performed during pregnancy. Anticoagulation with heparin is the mainstay of therapy during the pregnancy, but patients may be transitioned to warfarin after delivery.

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