Whats New in Obstetric Anesthesia: The 2016 Gerard W. Ostheimer Lecture

Hess, P.E. (2017) Anesthesia & Analgesia. 124(3) pp. 863–871

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This special article presents potentially important trends and issues affecting the field of obstetric anesthesia drawn from publications in 2015. Both maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States have increased in recent years because, in part, of the changing demographics of the childbearing population. Pregnant women are older and have more pre-existing conditions and complex medical histories. Cardiovascular and noncardiovascular medical diseases now account for half of maternal deaths in the United States.

Several national and international organizations have developed initiatives promoting optimal obstetric and anesthetic care, including guidelines on the obstetric airway, obstetric cardiac arrest protocols, and obstetric hemorrhage bundles. To deal with the increasing burden of high-risk parturients, the national obstetric organizations have proposed a risk-based classification of delivery centers, termed as Levels of Maternal Care. The goal of this initiative is to funnel more complex obstetric patients toward high-acuity centers where they can receive more effective care.

Despite the increasing obstetric complexity, anesthesia-related adverse events and morbidity are decreasing, possibly reflecting an ongoing focus on safe systems of anesthetic care. It is critical that the practice of obstetric anesthesia expand beyond the mere provision of safe analgesia and anesthesia to lead in developing and promoting comprehensive safety systems for obstetrics and team-based coordinated care.

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Labor or Cesarean for Superobese Women?

Rates of severe maternal and neonatal morbidity were similar among superobese women undergoing primary cesarean delivery versus a trial of labor, most often ending in vaginal delivery | Clinical Anesthesiology

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Researchers say a prospective clinical trial is needed to determine whether one method of birth is superior to the other in mothers who are superobese.

According to Alexander Butwick, MBBS, FRCA, MS, among women who are superobese, rates of cesarean delivery are particularly high (≥50%), but little has been known about how delivery mode affects perinatal and neonatal outcomes. Dr. Butwick, who presented the findings at the 2016 annual meeting of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology (abstract 01-02), is associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, in California.

Over the years, clinicians have observed that obesity is associated with an increased risk for obstetric, perinatal and anesthetic morbidities. Obese pregnant women are at an increased risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, operative delivery, postpartum infection and venous thromboembolism.

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Human factors in obstetrics

Monks, S. & Maclennon, K. Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine. Published online: 1 July 2016

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The importance of human factors is becoming increasingly recognized in the healthcare profession. Lack of situational awareness, poor communication and inadequate leadership compounded by unfamiliar teams in a rapidly deteriorating clinical situation put obstetric patients at particular risk. There is much to be learnt from other high-risk industries including aviation and the military. Increasing awareness and training in human factors and utilization of communication tools (such as SBAR) and prompts (including emergency checklists) can help to promote a safer environment.

Read the abstract here