High risk and low prevalence diseases: Eclampsia

Marina Boushra, Sreeja M. Natesan, Alex Koyfman, Brit Long

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Eclampsia is a rare partum and puerperal condition that carries a high rate of morbidity and mortality. Objective: This review highlights the pearls and pitfalls of the care of patients with eclampsia, including presentation, evaluation, and evidence-based management in the emergency department (ED). Discussion: Eclampsia is a hypertensive disease of pregnancy defined by new onset tonic-clonic, focal, or multifocal seizures or unexplained altered mental status in a pregnant or postpartum patient in the absence of other causative etiologies. However, signs and symptoms of preeclampsia and prodromes of eclampsia are often subtle and non-specific, making the diagnosis difficult. Thus, it should be considered in pregnant and postpartum patients who present to the ED. Laboratory testing including complete blood cell count, renal and liver function panels, electrolytes, glucose, coagulation panel, fibrinogen, lactate dehydrogenase, uric acid, and urinalysis, as well as imaging to include head computed tomography, can assist, but these evaluations should not delay management. Components of treatment include emergent obstetric specialist consultation, magnesium administration, and blood pressure control in patients with hypertension. Definitive treatment of eclampsia requires emergent delivery in pregnant patients. If consultants are not in-house, emergent stabilization and immediate transfer are required. Conclusions: An understanding of eclampsia can assist emergency clinicians in rapid recognition and timely management of this potentially deadly disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-228
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Eclampsia
  • Postpartum
  • Preeclampsia
  • Pregnancy
  • Seizures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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