High blood pressure, which complicates approximately 10% of all pregnancies, remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality for both mother and fetus. A relative paucity of investigative data, as well as the frequent difficulty in making an etiological diagnosis by clinical criteria alone, may be among the reasons why there are many conflicts about the management of hypertension during pregnancy. This clinical conference summarizes current concepts regarding the hypertensive disorders of gestation, focusing on the most dangerous cause, preeclampsia-eclampsia. It further highlights a recent report of the Working Group on High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy convened by the National High Blood Pressure Education Program at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (the Consensus Report). Among the Working Group's most interesting recommendations in controversial areas were a return to the classification schema suggested by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 1972, use of the fifth Korotkoff sound to determine diastolic blood pressure levels, and institution of treatment with antihypertensive drugs for sudden elevations of blood pressure near term to diastolic levels greater than or equal to 105 mm Hg or for levels of 100 mm Hg or higher in pregnant women with chronic hypertension. The Consensus Report further recommended parenteral hydralazine and methyldopa as the drugs of choice for the acute hypertensive crisis and management of chronic hypertension, respectively, based on the long histories of safe use of these agents in gravidas. Parenteral magnesium sulfate remained the preferred therapeutic approach for avoiding or treating the convulsive complication, eclampsia, but the Working Group underscored the need for controlled trials of magnesium's efficacy. Finally, they noted that diuretics should be avoided in preeclampsia, but that these drugs can be continued during gestation if taken before conception, and may be prescribed to pregnant women with chronic hypertension who appear overly salt sensitive.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association