Amniotic fluid embolism with involvement of the brain, lungs, adrenal glands, and heart

J Balazic, T Rott, T Jancigaj, M Popović, M Zajfert-Slabe, V Svigelj
International Journal of Legal Medicine 2003, 117 (3): 165-9
The case of a healthy 31-year-old woman in the 40th week of second pregnancy is presented. During preparation for an emergency caesarean section, she developed an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) with unusual and unique features. The acute onset of disease with cardiorespiratory failure with hypotension, tachycardia, cyanosis, respiratory disturbances and loss of consciousness, suggested at first a pulmonary thromboembolism, but the appearance of convulsions led to the diagnosis of AFE. The patient died after 5 days due to an untreatable brain edema. At autopsy, AFE with the usually associated disseminated intravascular coagulation was found in the lungs, brain, left adrenal gland, kidneys, liver and heart. Eosinophilic inflammatory infiltrates were found in the lungs, hepatic portal fields and especially in the heart, suggesting a specific hypersensitivity reaction to fetal antigens. Moreover, intravascular accumulation of macrophages in the lungs also favored a non-specific immune reaction to amniotic fluid constituents.

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