Pharmacotherapeutic options for the treatment of preeclampsia

Stacey McCoy, Kathleen Baldwin
American Journal of Health-system Pharmacy: AJHP 2009 February 15, 66 (4): 337-44

PURPOSE: Pharmacotherapeutic options for the treatment of preeclampsia are reviewed.

SUMMARY: Risk factors for the development of preeclampsia include microvascular diseases, such as diabetes mellitus; vascular and connective tissue disorders; hypertension; antiphospholipid antibody syndrome; and nephropathy. Several pathophysiological factors contribute to the development of the preeclamptic state, including vasospasm onset, coagulation system activation, increased inflammatory response, and ischemia. The specific agents used for the treatment of preeclampsia are dependent on a number of factors including symptom severity, maternal or fetal compromise, the progression to eclampsia, gestational period, and cervical status. The diagnosis of preeclampsia beyond the gestation period of 38 weeks requires delivery. The presence of maternal compromise or eclampsia at gestation greater than 20 weeks also necessitates delivery. In cases of chronic or mild hypertension, oral methyldopa may be administered on an outpatient basis. Intravenous hydralazine is a commonly administered arteriolar vasodilator that is effective for hypertensive emergencies associated with pregnancies. The most common adverse effect of hydralazine administration is unpredictable hypotension. Labetalol decreases heart rate and may be preferred because of a lack of reflex tachycardia, hypotension, or increased intracranial pressure. However, the drug of choice for the prevention and control of maternal seizures in patients with severe preeclampsia or eclampsia during the peripartum period is i.v. magnesium sulfate. Therapeutic serum magnesium levels cause cerebral vasodilation, thereby reversing the ischemia produced by cerebral vasospasm during an eclamptic episode. The results of one study indicated that women receiving magnesium sulfate therapy had a 58% lower risk of eclampsia than placebo.

CONCLUSION: Magnesium sulfate remains the drug of choice for the prevention and treatment of preeclampsia. Alternative antihypertensive agents may provide additional benefit in the management of hypertension for preeclamptic patients.

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