Eclampsia is generally recognized as constituting an obstetrical emergency which requires prompt medical intervention.
Eclampsia represents the neurologic consequences of the most severe form of the disease known as pre-eclampsia, or toxemia of pregnancy.
Eclampsia is generally characterized by the occurrence of tonic-clonic seizures or convulsions which are often prolonged and violent.
Many patients who suffer from eclamptic seizures also develop brain edema, or swelling, which can result in coma which is often fatal. In other patients, eclampsia can lead to maternal death as a result of intracerebral hemorrhage. Those patients who suffer intracerebral hemorrhage as a result of eclampsia who do not die, may be left with permanent neurologic injuries, including paralysis and blindness.
Uncontrolled maternal eclampsia almost uniformly necessitates the prompt delivery of the fetus, if viable. Any delay in delivering a patient suffering from eclampsia may lead to severe fetal bradycardia, hypoxia and resulting permanent neurologic injury or death.
It has long been recognized that eclampsia is one of the most dangerous and potentially deadly conditions that can effect both a mother and baby during pregnancy.
Because of this, safe and careful obstetricians will closely monitor any patients who have pre-eclampsia or who are otherwise at significant risk for developing eclampsia.
In many cases, safe and careful obstetricians may refer their patients who are at risk for developing eclampsia to maternal-fetal specialists, doctors who are specifically trained in managing the pregnancies of patients at risk for developing eclampsia.
In addition to carefully monitoring and treating a patient who is at risk for eclampsia, safe and careful obstetricians will prescribe antihypertensive therapies and antiseizure prophylaxis, typically including magnesium sulfate.
In many cases, however, the inadequate management and treatment of patients who are at risk for eclampsia can lead directly to the occurrence of eclamptic seizures and the associated risk of death and permanent neurologic injury to both the mother and her baby.