JOURNAL ARTICLE

Fatal amniotic fluid embolism during legally induced abortion, United States, 1972 to 1978

R J Guidotti, D A Grimes, W Cates
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1981 October 1, 141 (3): 257-61
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Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) has emerged as an important cause of death from legally induced abortion. In the period 1972-1978, 12 probably and three autopsy-confirmed cases of fatal AFE during legally induced abortion were identified in the United States (12% of all deaths from legal abortion). Fourteen deaths from AFE were associated with labor-inducing techniques, and one with hysterotomy. The risk of death appears to be related to gestational age: the death-to-case rate for AFE increases progressively from nil at less than or equal to 12 weeks' gestation to 7.2 deaths per 100,000 abortions at greater than or equal to 21 weeks' gestation. Because treatment is frequently ineffective, prevention of AFE is critical. Performing abortions early in pregnancy and using curettage techniques whenever feasible should reduce the risk of death from this obstetric accident during legally induced abortion.

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