Amniotic fluid embolism: An obstetrical enigma

Shannon M. Clark, Sheri L. Maynard, Gary dv Hankins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) has been classically defined as an event that occurs acutely during labor and delivery or immediately postpartum, presenting with hypoxia and hypotension leading to cardiovascular collapse, altered mental status and coagulopathy. Since AFE presents similarly to several other obstetrical emergencies, definitive diagnosis is difficult and can result in a delay in diagnosis and initiation of appropriate therapy. Myriad signs and symptoms are associated with occurrence of AFE, but five clinical signs have traditionally been associated with AFE: respiratory distress, cyanosis, cardiovascular collapse, coma and hemorrhage. Although the diagnosis of AFE is a diagnosis of exclusion, if a woman presents with acute shock and cardiovascular collapse accompanied by respiratory distress during labor or shortly after delivery in the absence of any other obvious cause, the diagnosis of AFE is likely. This review will examine the diagnosis, pathophysiology and management of AFE as an obstetrical emergency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-650
Number of pages10
JournalExpert Review of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007


  • amniotic fluid embolism
  • anaphylactoid syndrome of pregnancy
  • cardiovascular collapse
  • coagulopathy
  • pregnancy complication
  • respiratory distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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