Obstetric management following traumatic tetraplegia: Case series and literature review

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Abstract

Objective

Pregnancy in tetraplegia is a rare event, with only sporadic cases reported. This case series describes seven pregnancies in five tetraplegic women, all with spinal cord injuries in the region of C6.

Design

Retrospective case series.

Setting

Sydney, Australia.

Population

All tetraplegic women presenting to the obstetric service of a university teaching hospital, which also provides a regional spinal injury service, between 1981 and 2006.

Methods

Hospital records of all patients were examined and information extracted regarding demographics, pregnancies and their complications, labour and delivery and neonatal data.

Main outcome measures

Course, complications, management and outcomes of pregnancy in tetraplegic women.

Results

Mean age at the time of injury was 22 years, and, at the time of pregnancy, 33 years. All patients suffered recurrent, and sometimes severe, urinary tract infections and episodes of autonomic dysreflexia during pregnancy. Frequent and sometimes lengthy hospital admissions were required for these and other reasons. Only two pregnancies required caesarean section and all entered labour spontaneously, at a mean of 37.9 weeks of gestation. Episodes of autonomic dysreflexia were aggressively managed using pre-emptive epidural anaesthesia and sublingual nifedipine. All pregnancies resulted in normal, near-term babies with no serious perinatal problems.

Conclusions

Pregnancy and childbirth in tetraplegic women can be undertaken safely, usually with spontaneous onset of labour and vaginal delivery. However, hospitalisation for intercurrent problems is common. Management requires a multidisciplinary approach and is best undertaken in major centres with both obstetric and spinal cord injuries medical expertise.

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