From the Editor

Does your obstetric unit have a protocol for treating amniotic fluid embolism?

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Alternative approaches that provide support of the heart—but not lung—are the Impella pump, TandemHeart, and the intra-aortic balloon pump. An alternative that provides lung support—but not cardiac support—is veno-venous ECMO.

In developing a written protocol for responding to an AFE, obstetricians should explore the potential availability of VA-ECMO, cardiopulmonary bypass, or other cardiopulmonary support devices as options for patients who have not responded to standard treatment of AFE and are at high risk of death.

6. Post-AFE intensive care
After stabilization, most women with AFE will require intensive care for 48 to 96 hours. Some experts have proposed that all survivors of cardiopulmonary arrest who are successfully resuscitated and stabilized be transferred to hospitals that specialize in post−cardiac arrest care to improve outcomes.

Assessment of organ injury is important after an AFE. In addition, encephalopathy is a common complication of AFE, and sequential neurologic examination is a priority. Therapeutic hypothermia (TH) may help to preserve neurologic function after AFE.29 However, TH may cause a mild coagulopathy by inhibiting platelet activation and enzyme activity of clotting factors. Because coagulopathy is a prominent feature of AFE, TH may be contraindicated if the patient has a clinically significant baseline coagulopathy.30

Practicing the components of obstetric protocols can improve unit performance and patient outcomes.31 The components of an AFE protocol, as described in this article, include high-quality CPR, a protocol for massive transfusion, treatment of diffuse bleeding and coagulopathy, treatment of uterine and pelvic bleeding, extracorporeal lung and heart support, and post-AFE intensive care. Practicing these components of an AFE protocol will enhance performance across many common obstetric complications including postpartum hemorrhage, uterine rupture, placenta accreta, and pulmonary embolism.

When Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his copilot landed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in New York, he had never practiced that specific response to twin engine failure, but he had practiced many emergency responses involving related scenarios. The combination of exceptional flight experience and years of practicing the response to emergency scenarios in simulation exercises permitted him and his copilot to execute a uniquely clever plan to solve a life-threatening
emergency. In a related way, practicing the components of AFE treatment will help obstetricians, obstetric anesthesiologists, and their multidisciplinary team to improve the responses to all major obstetric emergencies.

Does your obstetric unit have a written protocol for treating an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE)? Has your obstetric unit practiced any of the components of the AFE treatment protocol: 1) high-quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation, 2) a protocol for massive transfusion protocol, 3) treatment of diffuse bleeding and coagulopathy, 4) treatment of uterine and pelvic bleeding, 5) extracorporeal lung and heart support, and 6) post-AFE intensive care?
Tell us—at [email protected]. Please include your name and the city and state in which you practice.


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