Tag Archives: MOET

Perimortem Caesarean Delivery: Late is Better than Not

“To date, approximately one-third of the women who die during pregnancy remain undelivered at the time of death”

Guidelines recommend cardiac arrest in pregnant women beyond 20 weeks gestation should be treated with perimortem caesarean delivery (PMCD) commenced within 4 minutes of arrest and completed within 5. These time intervals come from two papers, neither of which is current or used robust review methodology.

To address this, an up-to-date fairly comprehensive review was undertaken of published cases of maternal cardiac arrests occurring prior to delivery. The primary outcome measures were maternal and neonatal survival to hospital discharge and the relationship between PMCD and this outcome.

The Arrests

94 cases were included in the final analysis.Most pregnancies were singleton (90.4%, n = 85) with an average gestational age at the time of the arrest of 33 ± 7 weeks (median 35, range 10–42).

The most common causes of arrest were trauma, maternal cardiac problems, severe pre-eclampsia and amniotic fluid embolism, together comprising about 70% of arrests; two thirds occurred in hospital.

The Outcomes

Overall, return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) was achieved more often than not (60.6%) and overall survival to hospital discharge was 54.3%

Only 57 cases (75%) reported the time from arrest to delivery; the average time was 16.6 ± 12.5 min (median 10, range 1–60), with only 4 cases making it under the advocated 4-min time limit.

Timing of PMCD and Maternal Survival

In cases undergoing PMCD the average time elapsing from arrest to PMCD was significantly different between surviving (27/57) and non-surviving (30/57) mothers [10.0 ± 7.2 min (median 9, range 1–37) and 22.6 ± 13.3 min (median 20, range 4–60) respectively (p < 0.001, 95%CI 6.9–18.2)].

Timing of PMCD and Neonatal Survival

Mean times to PMCD were 14±11min (median=10, range=1–47) and 22 ± 13 min (median = 20, range = 4–60) in neonatal survivors and non-survivors respectively (p=0.016)

In cases with PMCD which reported outcome, the overall neonatal survival rate was 63.6% (42/66).

“The 4-min time frame advocated for PMCD usually remains unmet yet neonatal survival is still likely if delivery occurs within 10 or even 15 min of arrest”

Both maternal & neonatal mortality were higher with prehospital arrest location.


The study may be limited by recall bias, under-reporting and publication bias, but provides a more comprehensive evidence base on which to base resuscitation recommendations. The authors provide a useful warning against becoming fixated with the recommended four minute window, which may lead teams to fail to attempt a potentially life-saving intervention:

“Fixation on specific time frames for PMCD may not be ideal. It may be more important to focus on event recognition and good overall performance…. It may be wise to advocate a short time frame for performance of PMCD in order to achieve better outcomes; however, blanket endorsement of an unrealistic time frame may well create a defeatist attitude when that time frame cannot be met.”

Maternal cardiac arrest and perimortem caesarean delivery: Evidence or expert-based?
Resuscitation. 2012 Oct;83(10):1191-200

AIM: To examine the outcomes of maternal cardiac arrest and the evidence for the 4-min time frame from arrest to perimortem caesarean delivery (PMCD) recommended in current resuscitation and obstetric guidelines.

DATA SOURCES AND METHODS: Review and data extraction from all reported maternal cardiac arrests occurring prior to delivery (1980-2010). Cases were included if they provided details regarding both the event and outcomes. Outcomes of arrest were assessed using survival, Cerebral Performance Category (CPC) and maternal/neonatal harm/benefit from PMCD. Outcome measures were maternal and neonatal survival.

RESULTS: Of 1594 manuscripts screened, 156 underwent full review. Data extracted from 80 relevant papers yielded 94 included cases. Maternal outcome: 54.3% (51/94) of mothers survived to hospital discharge, 78.4% (40/51) with a CPC of 1/2. PMCD was determined to have been beneficial to the mother in 31.7% of cases and was not harmful in any case. In-hospital arrest and PMCD within 10 min of arrest were associated with better maternal outcomes (ORs 5.17 and 7.42 respectively, p<0.05 both). Neonatal outcome: mean times from arrest to delivery were 14±11 min and 22±13 min in survivors and non-survivors respectively (receiver operating area under the curve 0.729). Neonatal survival was only associated with in-hospital maternal arrest (OR 13.0, p<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Treatment recommendations should include a low admission threshold to a highly monitored area for pregnant women with cardiorespiratory decompensation, good overall performance of resuscitation and delivery within 10 min of arrest. Cognitive dissonance may delay both situation recognition and the response to maternal collapse.

A better way to tilt pregnant patients?

To alleviate aortocaval compression, it is recommended to tilt pregnant patients into the left lateral tilt position during resuscitation. Aortocaval compression may however occur despite a lateral tilt of up to 34°, thought to be due to the relative immobility of the gravid uterus, although tilting beyond 30° is likely to lead them to slide off the bed or stretcher.

It may be more effective to tilt the patient into the full left lateral position first before returning them to the left lateral tilt position.

Positioning the parturient from supine to the left lateral tilt position (supine-to-tilt) may not effectively displace the gravid uterus, but turning from the left lateral position to the left lateral tilt position (left lateral-to-tilt) may keep the gravid uterus displaced and prevent aortocaval compression.

Fifty-one full-term parturients were randomly placed in the left lateral position, supine-to-tilt and left lateral-to-tilt positions using a Crawford wedge. Femoral vein area, femoral vein velocity, femoral artery area, pulsatility index, resistance index and right arm mean arterial blood pressure and heart rate were recorded.

Our results showed a lower mean (SD) femoral vein area (82.2 (14.9) vs 96.2 (16.4) mm(2) ), a lower pulsatility index (3.83 (1.3) vs 5.8 (2.2)), a lower resistance index (0.93 (0.06) vs 0.98 (0.57)), a higher femoral artery area (33.3 (3.8) vs 30.9 (4.4) mm(2) ) and a higher femoral vein velocity (7.9 (1.2) vs 6.1 (1.6) cm.s(-1) ) with left lateral-to-tilt when compared with supine-to-tilt (all p < 0.001).

Our results suggest that moving a full-term parturient from the full left lateral to the lateral tilt position may prevent aortocaval compression in full-term parturients more efficiently than when positioning the parturient from a supine to left lateral tilt position.

Effect of positioning from supine and left lateral positions to left lateral tilt on maternal blood flow velocities and waveforms in full-term parturients
Anaesthesia. 2012 Aug;67(8):889-93

Prehospital resuscitative hysterotomy

My colleagues and I describe a tragic case in this month’s European Journal of Emergency Medicine1. Our physican-paramedic team was called to the home of a collapsed 38-week pregnant female who was in asystolic cardiac arrest. A peri-mortem caesarean delivery was performed by the physician in the patient’s home and the delivered newborn required intubation and chest compressions for bradycardia before resuming good colour and heart rate. Sadly there was ultimately a fatal outcome for both patients, but this case reminds us of the indications for this intervention and for emergency and pre-hospital physicians to be prepared to do it. A literature search yielded only one other reported prehospital case in recent medical literature2.

1.Prehospital resuscitative hysterotomy
Eur J Emerg Med. 2011 Aug;18(4):241-2

2.Out-of-hospital perimortem cesarean section
Prehosp Emerg Care. 1998 Jul-Sep;2(3):206-8

Saving mothers’ lives

The eighth Report of the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in the UK investigates the deaths of 261 women who died in the triennium 2006–08, from causes directly or indirectly related to pregnancy.

Direct deaths (from medical conditions that can only be the result of pregnancy) significantly decreased from 6.24 per 100 000 maternities in the last triennium to 4.67 per 100 000 maternities in this triennium (P = 0.02). This equates to 25 fewer direct maternal deaths over the triennium, and this decline is predominantly the result of reductions in deaths from thromboembolism, and to a lesser extent, haemorrhage. The case fatality rate for ectopic pregnancy has almost halved from an estimated rate of 31.2 per 100 000 estimated ectopic pregnancies in 2003–05 to 16.9 in this triennium.

Although Direct maternal deaths have decreased overall there has been a dramatic increase in deaths related to genital tract sepsis, particularly from community-acquired Group A streptococcal disease. The overall rate has increased from 0.85 deaths per 100 000 maternities in 2003–05 to 1.13 deaths in this triennium. Sepsis is now the commonest cause of Direct maternal deaths in the UK and this has prompted a Clinical Briefing from the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE) alerting health professionals to the risks.

Indirect maternal death rates have remained largely unchanged since the last report. Cardiac disease remains the most common cause of Indirect maternal death: many of these women also had lifestyle-related risk factors for cardiac disease: obesity, smoking and increased maternal age.

The review revealed many of the deaths to be associated with substandard care, some of the challenges being:

  1. Improving clinical knowledge and skills.
  2. Identifying very sick women.
  3. Improving the quality of serious incident/serious untoward incident (SUI) reports.
  4. Improving senior support.
  5. Better management of higher risk women.
  6. Pre-pregnancy counselling.
  7. Better referrals.
  8. Improving communication or communication skills, including: poor or non-existent teamworking; inappropriate or overly short telephone consultations; poor sharing of information between health professionals, particularly the maternity care team and GPs; poor interpersonal skills.
ABSTRACT In the triennium 2006-2008, 261 women in the UK died directly or indirectly related to pregnancy. The overall maternal mortality rate was 11.39 per 100,000 maternities. Direct deaths decreased from 6.24 per 100,000 maternities in 2003-2005 to 4.67 per 100,000 maternities in 2006–2008 (p = 0.02). This decline is predominantly due to the reduction in deaths from thromboembolism and, to a lesser extent, haemorrhage. For the first time there has been a reduction in the inequalities gap, with a significant decrease in maternal mortality rates among those living in the most deprived areas and those in the lowest socio-economic group. Despite a decline in the overall UK maternal mortality rate, there has been an increase in deaths related to genital tract sepsis, particularly from community acquired Group A streptococcal disease. The mortality rate related to sepsis increased from 0.85 deaths per 100,000 maternities in 2003-2005 to 1.13 deaths in 2006-2008, and sepsis is now the most common cause of Direct maternal death. Cardiac disease is the most common cause of Indirect death; the Indirect maternal mortality rate has not changed significantly since 2003-2005. This Confidential Enquiry identified substandard care in 70% of Direct deaths and 55% of Indirect deaths. Many of the identified avoidable factors remain the same as those identified in previous Enquiries. Recommendations for improving care have been developed and are highlighted in this report. Implementing the Top ten recommendations should be prioritised in order to ensure the overall UK maternal mortality rate continues to decline.

Saving Mothers’ Lives: Reviewing maternal deaths to make motherhood safer: 2006-2008. The Eighth Report of the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in the United Kingdom
BJOG. 2011 Mar;118 Suppl 1:1-203 (Full text available from CMACE site)

African study on cricoid pressure

The inventor of cricoid pressure. Possibly.

A colleague told me about a cricoid pressure paper I would otherwise have missed, since I don’t normally check out the International Journal of Obstetric Anaesthesia. This was a multicentre observational study in Malawi, in which 30 women (of 4891 general anaesthetics) vomited or regurgitated during induction of anaesthesia, in 24 of whom cricoid pressure was applied. 11 of the 77 deaths that occurred were associated with regurgitation, in 10 of which regurgitation contributed to the death. Nine of these 11 mothers who died had had cricoid pressure applied. The incidence of regurgitation was lower, but not significantly so, among those who did not have cricoid pressure applied. Not sure why it took nine years to publish this work.


BACKGROUND: Cricoid pressure is a routine part of rapid-sequence induction of general anaesthesia in obstetrics, but its efficacy in saving life is difficult to ascertain.

METHODS: As part of a prospective observational study of caesarean sections performed between January 1998 and June 2000 in 27 hospitals in Malawi, the anaesthetist recorded whether cricoid pressure was applied, the method of anaesthesia, the use of endotracheal intubation, the occurrence and timing of regurgitation and any other pre- or intra-operative complications. Logistic regression was used to assess the effect of cricoid pressure, type of anaesthetic and pre-operative complications on vomiting/regurgitation and death.

RESULTS: Data were collected for 4891 general anaesthetics that involved intubation. Cricoid pressure was applied in 61%; 139 women vomited or regurgitated, but only 30 on induction of anaesthesia, in 24 of whom cricoid pressure was applied. There were 77 deaths, 11 of which were associated with regurgitation, in 10 of which regurgitation contributed to the death. Nine of the 11 mothers had cricoid pressure applied. Only one died on the table, the rest postoperatively. All those who died had preoperative complications.

CONCLUSION: This study does not provide any evidence for a protective effect of cricoid pressure as used in this context, in preventing regurgitation or death. Preoperative gastric emptying may be a more effective measure to prevent aspiration of gastric contents.

Life-saving or ineffective? An observational study of the use of cricoid pressure and maternal outcome in an African setting
Int J Obstet Anesth. 2009 Apr;18(2):106-10

Fibrinogen concentrate

A case report of massive obstetric haemorrhage due to placental abruption describes the successful management of haemorrhage associated with a low fibrinogen level with blood products that included fibrinogen concentrate.

Fibrinogen concentrate can be available more quickly than other clotting products as it is rapidly solubilised from an ampoule in 50 ml water and given as a bolus. To raise the plasma fibrinogen concentration by 1 g/l in a 70-kg person, 1000 ml fresh frozen plasma (6 standard UK units), or 260 ml cryoprecipitate (10 standard UK units) will be required. Administration of adequate doses of fresh frozen plasma or cryoprecipitate to treat hypofibrinogenaemia during obstetric haemorrhage will therefore take a substantial amount of time, even with an efficient blood bank and portering system.

Fibrinogen concentrate use during major obstetric haemorrhage
Anaesthesia 2010;65(12):1229–1230

A previous retrospective study showed its use in a series of surgical and obstetric haemorrhage cases may have been associated with a subsequent decreased need for other blood products.

Fibrinogen concentrate substitution therapy in patients with massive haemorrhage and low plasma fibrinogen concentrations
Br. J. Anaesth. (2008) 101 (6): 769-773 (Full text)

Fetal monitoring during EMS transport

Can cardiotocography be applied in the pre-hospital setting? French physicians assessed its feasibility in 145 patients enrolled during 119 interhospital transfers and 26 primary prehospital missions.
Their physician-staffed ambulance teams included 19 emergency physicians and one anaesthetist.

Interpretable tracings were obtained for 81% of the patients during the initial examination, but this rate decreased to 66% during handling and transfer procedures. Only ground EMS transportations were included in the study. For 17 patients (12%), the monitoring led to a change in the patient’s management: an acceleration of chronology of prehospital management in 5 cases, a decision to directly admit the patient to the operating room for immediate cesarean section in three cases, a change in hospital admission in three cases, an adaptation or implementation of tocolytic treatment in six cases, and placing the patient in the left lateral decubitus position or oxygen administration in three cases.

Fetal monitoring in the prehospital setting
J Emerg Med. 2010 Nov;39(5):623-8

A-a gradient unhelpful in pregnancy

"Man, she's enormous. I can't reach the chest to auscultate!"

Given that thromboembolism is the leading cause of maternal death in the UK according to the latest UK CEMACE report, it would be nice to have reliable non-ionising tests in the ED to rapidly rule out this disease in pregnant women. Unfortunately, the alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient does not do the job.

A recent study compared the A-a gradient with CTPA as the gold standard. Of 102 patients who were pregnant or up to 6 weeks post-partum, there were 13 PEs (2 antepartum and 11 postpartum). The best sensitivity, specificity, and negative and positive predictive values for A-a gradients were 76.9%, 20.2%, 80.0%, and 11.5%, respectively.

Assessment of the alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient as a screening test for pulmonary embolism in pregnancy
Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Oct;203(4):373.e1-4

Misoprostol for PPH

Misoprostol is a prostaglandin analogue with uterotonic activity. It was compared with placebo in its sublingual form in a randomised trial in 1422 women with postpartum haemorrhage and uterine atony. It was given with other uterotonic agents (mostly oxytocin 10IU im or slow iv). The primary outcome was blood loss of 500 mL or more within 60 min after randomisation, and this was similar in both groups.
Misoprostol as an adjunct to standard uterotonics for treatment of post-partum haemorrhage: a multicentre, double-blind randomised trial
Lancet. 2010 May 22;375(9728):1808-13