Intracranial emergencies during pregnancy requiring urgent neurosurgical treatment

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2020 Aug:195:105905. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2020.105905. Epub 2020 May 12.


Objective: Despite contemporary diagnostic and therapeutic techniques intracranial emergencies in the obstetric setting pose still a major challenge for the clinicians. There are limited guidelines and differing ethical views. Multidisciplinary teams are needed to support the pregnant woman in a way that she can deliver a viable and healthy child. The aim of the present study was to scrutinize the management of intracranial emergencies during pregnancy which needed urgent neurosurgical treatment.

Patients and methods: Data of all pregnant women who presented with newly diagnosed intracranial pathologies and neurological symptoms caused by these pathologies in an emergency setting were collected over a 10-year period (2008-2018). Patient characteristics including maternal age, gestational age, and preoperative work-up of both mother and fetus were recorded. Furthermore, the surgical treatment, mode of delivery, and neonatal and maternal outcomes were analysed.

Results: The mean maternal age was 32.7 years and most patients were in their third trimester. There was one twin pregnancy (total of 12 fetuses). Five out of eleven pregnant women suffered from intracerebral haemorrhage (epidural haematoma (1), arteriovenous malformation (1), subarachnoid haemorrhage (2) and intracerebral haemorrhage (1)) and the other six patients had intracranial neoplasms (primary meningeal sarcoma (1), trigeminal schwannoma (1), anaplastic astrocytoma (2), glioblastoma (1) and sphenoid wing meningioma (1)).Neurosurgical procedures were performed via craniotomies in eight patients. A stereotactic biopsy via a frontal burr hole was achieved one patient. The two other patients with subarachnoid haemorrhage due to rupture of PICA aneurysms were treated with coil embolization. Depending on the gestational age and the clinical condition of the pregnant women it was decided to perform an emergency Caesarean section prior to further therapeutic measures in seven patients. Two out of 12 fetuses were unviable. Six women survived, while five women succumbed to the intracranial pathology.

Conclusion: The individualized treatment approach in this peculiar obstetric scenario needs to consider various issues such as the clinical condition of the pregnant woman, prognosis of the disease, gestational age and the status of the pregnancy. The primary concern in this context must be the mother`s health and safety. Caesarean section is the primary mode of delivery in most cases. While contemporary care can insure survival for the majority of infants, maternal mortality still poses an extraordinary challenge. Interdisciplinary consulting of the patient and/or her family is necessary to develop a treatment strategy for both the expectant woman and her offspring.

Keywords: Fetus; Hemorrhage; Intracranial bleeding; Intracranial tumor; Neurosurgery; Pregnancy; Subarachnoid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Diseases / surgery*
  • Brain Neoplasms / surgery
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / surgery
  • Cesarean Section
  • Craniotomy
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Emergencies*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / surgery
  • Maternal Age
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Precision Medicine
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / surgery*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult