Author: rebecca isles

Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy

  • New onset hypertension after 20 weeks of gestation (systolic blood pressure > 140 and/or diastolic blood pressure > 90)

And either

  • Proteinuria (urine protein:creatinine ratio ≥30mg/mmol)


  • Other features of pre-eclampsia1:
    • AKI (creatinine ≥ 90)
    • Liver dysfunction (ALT>40)/epigastric/RUQ pain
    • New severe persistent headache without an alternative diagnosis
    • Persistent visual disturbance
    • Haematological complications (platelets <150/DIC/haemolysis)
    • Neurological complications (clonus/stroke/seizures(eclampsia))
    • Pulmonary oedema
    • Uteroplacental dysfunction (fetal growth restriction/placental abruption/intrauterine death)

Onset is usually after 20 weeks of gestation, but it can also occur up to a few weeks postpartum.

Eclampsia- This is pre-eclampsia that has progressed to seizures

Risk Factors:

Clinical features of pre-eclampsia:

  • Asymptomatic hypertension (picked up on screening or incidentally when presenting with another issue)
  • Headache (usually frontal)
  • RUQ or epigastric pain (also a symptom of HELLP syndrome)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Oedema (common but not specific). Especially if rapidly increasing and involving face and hands.
  • Visual disturbance (flashing lights in the visual fields or scotomata)
  • Shortness of breath (uncommon but can occur due to pulmonary oedema)
  • Hyper-reflexia and/or clonus

HELLP syndrome is a variant of severe pre-eclampsia characterised by haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets.4

Symptoms and signs are similar to those of pre-eclampsia but also include jaundice and bleeding.

Management of Pre-eclampsia:


  • Contact obstetrics early
  • Manage the patient in an area with close monitoring if pre-eclampsia with severe features
  • BP management:
    • Labetalol first line unless unsuitable or contraindicated3 (e.g. asthma)
    • Nifedipine MR second line
    • Methyldopa third line (not used postpartum due to risk of depression)
  • Careful fluid balance monitoring
    • Fluid restriction to reduce the risk of pulmonary oedema
    • Monitor urine output if severe
  • Consider IV magnesium sulphate for eclampsia prophylaxis if severe features of pre-eclampsia

Definitive management:

Definitive management of pre-eclampsia is ultimately delivery of the fetus.   Timing of delivery will be decided by senior members of the obstetric team according to the severity of pre-eclampsia, the current gestation and in consultation with the patient. Following diagnosis of pre-eclampsia, the majority of women are managed as inpatients until delivery.


ED Management of Eclampsia:

  • Ask for help early from ITU and obstetric teams
  • ABC approach, manage in left lateral position
  • Airway and breathing assessment with high flow oxygen
  • If inadequate ventilation, consider early intubation (laryngeal oedema in pre-eclampsia and increased risk of aspiration in pregnancy)
  • Magnesium sulphate IV is treatment of choice for seizures – 4g loading dose over 5-10 mins then 1g/hr infusion for 24 hours
  • Further 2g boluses of magnesium sulphate can be given if further seizures occur after initial loading.3
  • Patients will need to be managed in HDU/ITU to stabilise blood pressure prior to delivery

Full NICE guidance is available here

Opioid Toxicity

Opioid Toxicity causes:

  1. Drowsiness
  2. Respiratory Depression – Hypo-ventilation and decreased respiratory rate
  3. Pupillary Miosis

Other Symptoms may include (but are not diagnostic or opioid toxicity):

  • Nausea and vomiting
  •  Neuropsychiatric features including nightmares, anxiety, agitation, euphoria, dysphoria,
    depression, paranoia and hallucinations
  •  Urticaria and pruritis
  •  Convulsions
  •  Hypotension and bradycardia
  •  Hypothermia secondary to environmental exposure

Naloxone is the antidote to Opioids however as these are commonly co-ingested with other depressants. full reversal of symptoms may not occur with treatment.

In acute opioid toxicity, the aim of naloxone administration should be reversal of respiratory depression and maintenance of airway protective reflexes, not full reversal of unconsciousness.


Opioid Toxicity Treatment

Naloxone infusion if required is based on the total dose given to obtain Respiratory rate of 10

Link to the full guidance is here