Stroke and severe preeclampsia and eclampsia: a paradigm shift focusing on systolic blood pressure

Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Feb;105(2):246-54. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000151116.84113.56.


Objective: To identify important clinical correlates of stroke in patients with preeclampsia and eclampsia.

Methods: The case histories of 28 patients who sustained a stroke in association with severe preeclampsia and eclampsia were scrutinized with particular attention to blood pressures.

Results: Stroke occurred antepartum in 12 patients, postpartum in 16. Stroke was classified as hemorrhagic-arterial in 25 of 27 patients (92.6%) and thrombotic-arterial in 2 others. Multiple sites were involved in 37% without distinct pattern. In the 24 patients being treated immediately before stroke, systolic pressure was 160 mm Hg or greater in 23 (95.8%) and more than 155 mm Hg in 100%. In contrast, only 3 of 24 patients (12.5%) exhibited prestroke diastolic pressures of 110 mm Hg or greater, only 5 of 28 reached 105 mm Hg, and only 6 (25%) exceeded a mean arterial pressure of 130 mm Hg before stroke. Only 3 patients received prestroke antihypertensives. Twelve patients sustained a stroke while receiving magnesium sulfate infusion; 8 had eclampsia. Although all blood pressure means after stroke were significantly higher than prestroke, only 5 patients exhibited more than 110 mm Hg diastolic pressures. In 18 of 28 patients, hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelets syndrome did not significantly alter blood pressures compared with non-hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelets. Mean systolic and diastolic changes from pregnancy baseline to prestroke values were 64.4 and 30.6 mm Hg, respectively. Maternal mortality was 53.6%; only 3 patients escaped permanent significant morbidity.

Conclusion: In contrast to severe systolic hypertension, severe diastolic hypertension does not develop before stroke in most patients with severe preeclampsia and eclampsia. A paradigm shift is needed toward considering antihypertensive therapy for severely preeclamptic and eclamptic patients when systolic blood pressure reaches or exceeds 155-160 mm Hg.

Level of evidence: III.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Blood Pressure Determination
  • Comorbidity
  • Eclampsia / diagnosis
  • Eclampsia / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • HELLP Syndrome / diagnosis
  • HELLP Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diagnosis
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Incidence
  • Pre-Eclampsia / diagnosis
  • Pre-Eclampsia / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Stroke / diagnosis
  • Stroke / epidemiology*
  • Systole / physiology