Treatment of Neurocritical Care Emergencies in Pregnancy
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- Sheth, S.S. & Sheth, K.N. Curr Treat Options Neurol (2012) 14: 197. doi:10.1007/s11940-011-0161-6
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Neurologic emergencies are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in pregnant women. In part because the patient population is young, the nihilistic approach that often accompanies neurologically devastating disorders in other contexts is largely absent. A number of studies have demonstrated improved patient outcomes in the setting of aggressive care delivered by neurointensivists in a specialty-specific environment. It stands to reason that young, pregnant women who suffer from neurologically devastating disorders and who have a wide range of prognosis may also benefit from such specialized care. Close collaboration between obstetricians and neurointensivists is critical in this context. A number of unique considerations in diagnosis and management present dilemmas in the context of pregnancy, such as radiation dose from diagnostic neuroimaging, choice of pharmacotherapy for seizures, anticoagulation, and the method of delivery in the context of cerebral mass lesions and elevated intracranial pressure. Patients and their physicians are often faced with the additional challenge of balancing the relative risks and benefits of the impact of a management approach on both mother and fetus. In general, this balance tends to favor the interests of the mother, but the impact on the fetus becomes more relevant over the course of the pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. A low threshold for admission to an intensive care unit (ideally one that specializes in neurointensive care) should be used for pregnant patients. Because of the limited information regarding long-term outcomes in this population, rigid prognosis formation and early care limitations should be deferred in the immediate period. After the patient is stabilized and a plan has been charted for the remainder of the pregnancy, every effort should be made to engage patients in aggressive, urgent neurologic rehabilitation.