The Management of Pregnant Trauma Patients: A Narrative Review

Anesth Analg. 2023 May 1;136(5):830-840. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000006363. Epub 2023 Apr 14.


Trauma is the leading nonobstetric cause of maternal death and affects 1 in 12 pregnancies in the United States. Adhering to the fundamentals of the advanced trauma life support (ATLS) framework is the most important component of care in this patient population. Understanding the significant physiologic changes of pregnancy, especially with regard to the respiratory, cardiovascular, and hematologic systems, will aid in airway, breathing, and circulation components of resuscitation. In addition to trauma resuscitation, pregnant patients should undergo left uterine displacement, insertion of 2 large bore intravenous lines placed above the level of the diaphragm, careful airway management factoring in physiologic changes of pregnancy, and resuscitation with a balanced ratio of blood products. Early notification of obstetric providers, initiation of secondary assessment for obstetric complications, and fetal assessment should be undertaken as soon as possible but without interference to maternal trauma assessment and management. In general, viable fetuses are monitored by continuous fetal heart rate for at least 4 hours or more if abnormalities are detected. Moreover, fetal distress may be an early sign of maternal deterioration. When indicated, imaging studies should not be limited out of fear for fetal radiation exposure. Resuscitative hysterotomy should be considered in patients approaching 22 to 24 weeks of gestation, who arrive in cardiac arrest or present with profound hemodynamic instability due to hypovolemic shock.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Airway Management
  • Cesarean Section / methods
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Resuscitation / adverse effects
  • Resuscitation / methods
  • Shock*