Treatment of preeclampsia and eclampsia

J McCombs
Clinical Pharmacy 1992, 11 (3): 236-45
The characteristics and treatment of preeclampsia and eclampsia are reviewed. Risk factors for preeclampsia include (1) nulliparity, (2) a mother or sister(s) with a history of the disorder, (3) essential hypertension or renal disease, or (4) a twin or molar pregnancy. Preeclampsia is diagnosed when the systolic blood pressure (BP) increases by 30 mm Hg or the diastolic BP increases by 15 mm Hg after the 20th week of gestation and the BP rise is accompanied by edema, proteinuria, or both. Severe preeclampsia is diagnosed when the BP reaches or exceeds 160 mm Hg systolic or 110 mm Hg diastolic after bed rest. Eclampsia is the occurrence of seizures (in the preeclamptic patient) that cannot be attributed to other causes; it occurs in about 0.2% of preeclamptic patients. Magnesium sulfate (in the injectable, hydrated form) is the agent used most often for seizure prophylaxis in the preeclamptic patient in the United States. It is also used widely to control seizures once they develop. In the United States, diazepam is used to supplement magnesium sulfate if necessary to control seizures, but its use is not routine. Among antihypertensive agents, i.v. hydralazine is preferred in this country to control blood pressure in the severely preeclamptic or eclamptic patient. Several studies provide promising evidence that low-dose aspirin (60-150 mg daily beginning at 28-30 weeks of gestation) prevents preeclampsia in women who are at risk for its development. Until additional comparative studies are completed, magnesium sulfate and hydralazine will remain the standard of care for the treatment of preeclampsia in the United States.

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