California hospitals have a new tool to help reduce maternal deaths. Today, the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative released a toolkit for the treatment of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that can kill pregnant women and new mothers. Although, fortunately, few women die in California during pregnancy or birth, preeclampsia is among the leading causes of such deaths. Importantly, many deaths caused by this disease can be prevented if doctors know what to do.
Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure in late pregnancy. It can escalate without warning to full-blown eclampsia, in which the woman experiences potentially deadly seizures. The only cure is delivery of the baby.
To help California hospitals handle this obstetric emergency, the CMQCC convened a task force that reviewed scientific literature on the disease. The task force, c0-led by Stanford's Maurice Druzin, MD, developed a package of materials that includes care guidelines, such as identification of clinical "triggers" that require immediate evaluation; a compendium of relevant research on the disease; and educational materials for physicians and patients.
From the CMQCC's announcement about the toolkit:
The primary aim of the Toolkit is to guide and support obstetrical providers, clinical staff, hospitals and healthcare organizations to develop methods within their facilities for timely recognition and an organized, swift response to preeclampsia. “Every hospital that provides obstetric care should have current guidelines on early recognition and response to preeclampsia,” says Dr. Druzin. An expert in the field, Dr. Druzin also served on a national committee that made recommendations to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology on how to diagnose and treat preeclampsia.
I spoke with Druzin when the toolkit was in development, and he stressed that sharing this information could prevent tragic outcomes for women and their families. "The good news is that with a modern treatment approach, most women and their babies can have safe, healthy outcomes," he said.