Preeclampsia is one of the most significant medical complications in pregnancy because of the acute onset it can have in so many affected patients. This acute onset may then rapidly progress to eclampsia and to severe consequences, including maternal death. In addition, the disorder can occur as early as the late second trimester and can thus impact the timing of delivery and fetal age at birth.
It is an obstetrical syndrome with serious implications for the fetus, the infant at birth, and the mother, and it is one whose incidence has been increasing. A full knowledge of the disease state – its pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and various therapeutic options, both medical and surgical – is critical for the health and well-being of both the mother and fetus.
A new classification system introduced in 2013 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Task Force Report on Hypertension in Pregnancy has added further complexity to an already complicated disease. On one hand, attempting to precisely achieve a diagnosis with such an imprecise and insidious disease seems ill advised. On the other hand, it is important to achieve some level of clarity with respect to diagnosis and management. In doing so, we must lean toward overdiagnosis and maintain a low threshold for treatment and intervention in the interest of the mother and infant.
I have engaged Baha M. Sibai, MD, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School, Houston, to introduce a practical approach for interpreting and utilizing the ACOG report. This installment is the first of a two-part series in which we hope to provide practical clinical strategies for this complex disease.
Dr. Reece, who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine, is vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, as well as the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the school of medicine. He said he had no relevant financial disclosures. He is the medical editor of this column. Contact him at.