Echocardiographic assessment and critical care management of peri-partum women with unexpected left ventricular failure

J Intensive Care Soc. 2022 May;23(2):210-221. doi: 10.1177/1751143720978862. Epub 2021 Jan 5.


Introduction: Cardiac disease remains the largest single cause of maternal death. Whilst uncommon, left ventricular failure during pregnancy and delivery can be devastating to both mother and child. Echocardiography can play a significant role in rapidly establishing a diagnosis, guiding initial therapy and then monitoring response.

Clinical vignettes: The history, presentation and management of three cases of peri-partum left ventricular failure is examined: stress cardiomyopathy in a 34 year old with twins, left ventricular dysfunction secondary to pre-eclampsia in a 22 year old with a singleton pregnancy and a true peri-partum cardiomyopathy in a 42 year old with IVF twins. The defining risk factors, presenting characteristics and echocardiographical findings for each pathology are highlighted.

Conclusion: Echocardiography is playing an increasingly important role in the immediate assessment and management of left ventricular failure. This is especially true in the peri-partum woman, where establishing the correct therapy is both challenging and crucial due to the significant cardiovascular changes that occur around the time of delivery. To this end we believe that echocardiography should be rapidly available to guide the management of these patients by a multidisciplinary team made up of obstetricians, cardiologists, anaesthetists and intensive care physicians.

Keywords: Echocardiography; cardiomyopathy; heart failure; peri-partum; pre-eclampsia.

Publication types

  • Review