Objective: To describe causes, courses, complications, and outcomes of patients with pregnancy-associated acute respiratory distress syndrome (RDS).
Methods: Twenty-eight women with ARDS during pregnancy or within a week postpartum formed the study population. Eight cases had been reported previously. Charts were abstracted for maternal demographics, etiology, and treatment of acute RDS, and maternal outcomes. For antepartum acute RDS, newborn charts were also reviewed.
Results: The incidence of acute RDS, excluding maternal transports, was one per 6277 deliveries or 0.016% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0, 0.027%). Leading causes were infection (12 cases), preeclampsia or eclampsia (seven cases), and aspiration (three cases). Eleven mothers died, a maternal mortality rate of 39.3% (CI 21.5%, 59.4%). Six of eight women who were ventilated for over 14 days survived. Nine of the acute RDS cases might have been preventable. Ten mothers with living fetuses were ventilated during the third trimester; nine delivered within 4 days. Among six infants delivered because of fetal heart rate abnormalities, one died and at least three had evidence of asphyxia.
Conclusions: Acute RDS occurs more frequently in pregnancy than the 1.5 cases per 100,000 per year reported for the general population. Prolonged ventilator support is warranted. The high rate of perinatal asphyxia in infants who have fetal heart rate abnormalities supports a strategy of expeditious delivery during the third trimester.