A 41-year old primigravida underwent caesarean section because of foetal distress following prostin induction of labour. Intraoperative coagulopathy, haemorrhage and hypotension necessitated a hysterectomy. Subsequently, she developed respiratory and renal failure, requiring mechanical ventilation and haemodialysis. She made a full recovery. The likely diagnosis was amniotic fluid embolism (AFE), a rare complication of pregnancy with a variable presentation, ranging from cardiac arrest and death through to mild degrees of organ system dysfunction with or without coagulopathy. The differential diagnosis includes pre-eclamptic toxaemia/pregnancy-induced hypertension, anaphylaxis and pulmonary embolism. There is no diagnostic test for AFE; the finding of foetal elements in the maternal circulation is non-specific. Historically, AFE was thought to induce cardiovascular collapse by mechanical obstruction of the pulmonary circulation. It is now thought that a combination of left ventricular dysfunction and acute lung injury occur, with activation of several of the clotting factors. An immunological basis for these effects is postulated. There is no specific therapy and treatment is supportive. The mortality of the condition remains high.
- Multiple organ failure