Amniotic fluid embolism: diagnosis and management

Luis D. Pacheco, George Saade, Gary D.V. Hankins, Steven L. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Objective We sought to provide evidence-based guidelines regarding the diagnosis and management of amniotic fluid embolism. Study Design A systematic literature review was performed using MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library. The search was restricted to English-language articles published from 1966 through March 2015. Priority was given to articles reporting original research, in particular randomized controlled trials, although review articles and commentaries were consulted. Abstracts of research presented at symposia and scientific conferences were not considered adequate for inclusion. Evidence reports and published guidelines were also reviewed, and additional studies were located by reviewing bibliographies of identified articles. Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) methodology was used for defining the strength of recommendations and rating quality of the evidence. Consistent with US Preventive Task Force guidelines, references were evaluated for quality based on the highest level of evidence. Results and Recommendations We recommend the following: (1) we recommend consideration of amniotic fluid embolism in the differential diagnosis of sudden cardiorespiratory collapse in the laboring or recently delivered woman (GRADE 1C); (2) we do not recommend the use of any specific diagnostic laboratory test to either confirm or refute the diagnosis of amniotic fluid embolism; at the present time, amniotic fluid embolism remains a clinical diagnosis (GRADE 1C); (3) we recommend the provision of immediate high-quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation with standard basic cardiac life support and advanced cardiac life support protocols in patients who develop cardiac arrest associated with amniotic fluid embolism (GRADE 1C); (4) we recommend that a multidisciplinary team including anesthesia, respiratory therapy, critical care, and maternal-fetal medicine should be involved in the ongoing care of women with AFE (Best Practice); (5) following cardiac arrest with amniotic fluid embolism, we recommend immediate delivery in the presence of a fetus ≥23 weeks of gestation (GRADE 2C); (6) we recommend the provision of adequate oxygenation and ventilation and, when indicated by hemodynamic status, the use of vasopressors and inotropic agents in the initial management of amniotic fluid embolism. Excessive fluid administration should be avoided (GRADE 1C); and (7) because coagulopathy may follow cardiovascular collapse with amniotic fluid embolism, we recommend the early assessment of clotting status and early aggressive management of clinical bleeding with standard massive transfusion protocols (GRADE 1C).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)B16-B24
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • amniotic fluid embolism
  • cardiorespiratory arrest
  • pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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