Pharmacological treatment of severe hypertension in pregnancy and the role of serotonin(2)-receptor blockers

A C Bolte, H P van Geijn, G A Dekker
European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology 2001, 95 (1): 22-36
Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are the leading cause of maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity in developing and developed countries. The etiology of preeclampsia is still unknown. Delivering the baby is the only definite treatment. The benefits of acute pharmacological control of severe hypertension prior to and/or post-delivery are generally accepted. Most drugs commonly used in the management of severe hypertension in pregnancy have significant maternal and/or neonatal adverse side effects. Furthermore, some are not effective to acutely lower the blood pressure in patients with a hypertensive crisis. Until recently not one of the commonly used antihypertensive drugs has been tailored to the pathophysiology of severe preeclampsia, being a clinical syndrome characterized by endothelial cell dysfunction, vasospasm and platelet aggregation. Ketanserin, a serotonin(2)-receptor blocker, is a drug that appears to be tailored for treating this pregnancy-associated enthothelial cell dysfunction. The results of several prospective trials show that there is a definite place for serotonin(2)-receptor blockers in the treatment of pregnancy-induced hypertensive disorders. This review provides a summary on the more established drugs as well as on some of the newer antihypertensive drugs used in pregnancy with emphasis on the existing experience with ketanserin.

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