Background: The treatment of preeclampsia before 25 weeks of gestation remains controversial. The aim was to evaluate the outcome of expectant management of preeclamptic women presenting prior to 25 weeks of gestation.
Material/methods: During a five-year period, 55 women presenting with severe preeclampsia at or before 24 weeks and 6 days of gestation were admitted to a high-care unit for expectant management. Indications for delivery were the development of severe maternal morbidity secondary to preeclampsia. Complications were identified from individual patient and infant records.
Results: Mean prolongation of gestation was 4.8+/-4.1 days (range: 1-13 days) and the mean maternal hospitalization period was 10.0+/-8.3 days (range: 2-31 days). Conservative management was associated with a 94.5% (52/55) intrauterine fetal loss rate. Of the three live-born infants, one died secondary to respiratory distress syndrome followed by neonatal sepsis and the other two survived with cognitive and motor developmental delay. HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelets) syndrome was diagnosed in 12 women (21.8%). Nine women (16.3%) required transfusions with blood or blood products. There was 1 case (1.8%) of eclampsia. Overall, 15 women (27.2%) had developed some maternal morbidity without any significant differences between <23 weeks' and >/=23 weeks' gestation. Nulliparity was not associated with stillbirth (p=0.8), HELLP syndrome (p=0.8), or overall maternal morbidity (p=0.7). None of the women died or required any long-term treatment.
Conclusions: Conservative management of severe preeclampsia before 25 weeks of gestation is associated with considerable perinatal mortality and morbidity. Maternal complications are relatively common, but generally short-lived.