To establish the etiologies and therapeutic strategies for the treatment of eclampsia and stroke during pregnancy, we performed a questionnaire-based study of stroke during pregnancy in Aichi prefecture (2005-2009). This study revealed the following findings: 66% of deliveries were managed in primary medical institutions, 40% of eclampsia episodes and 31% of strokes occurred at primary medical institutions, and 19% of strokes occurred at home. Home-onset strokes displayed a mortality rate of 40%. Using the results of this questionnaire, we investigated cases of eclampsia and/or stroke during pregnancy and revealed important issues regarding their management. In pregnant women with eclampsia or stroke, accurate antihypertensive and anticonvulsive treatment are necessary. Discriminating between eclampsia and stroke during labor is difficult. However, when facial or arm muscle weakness or a facial deficit is detected, stroke should be strongly suspected. Brain computed tomography can usually detect most cases of hemorrhagic stroke. When a stroke is detected, collaborative treatment with a neurosurgeon should be started as soon as possible. If stroke is suspected at a primary medical institution, rapid maternal transport to an intensive medical institution is necessary. In patients whose blood pressure is greater than 180/120 mmHg, the use of MgSO4 to decrease the risk of convulsions and reduce blood pressure is recommended. These findings might aid the development of therapeutic strategies for pregnant women with eclampsia or stroke.
Brain lesions related to pregnancy are not frequent, but are potentially lethal. About half of the cases are intracerebral hemorrhage, subarachnoid hemorrhage, infarction, and venous thrombosis. Their imaging characteristics are not much different from those caused by other reasons than pregnancy, and can be relatively easily recognized. The other half of cases are encephalopathy related to pregnancy-induced hypertension, eclampsia, and other factors. Such pregnancy-related vascular encephalopathy can be grossly sorted into 3 categories: posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, HELLP (hemolysis-elevated liver enzymes-low platelets) syndrome, and reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome. These conditions are rare, but neurosurgeons must be able to recognize them.
Coagulability increases during pregnancy, and thromboembolism can easily occur. Venous thromboembolism is a cause of death in pregnant women, but arterial thrombosis such as ischemic stroke in pregnancy is also not uncommon. In pharmacotherapy for thromboembolism in pregnant women, fetal toxicity and teratogenicity must be carefully considered. As anticoagulants in pregnant women, unfractionated heparin and low-molecular-weight heparin are recommended, but warfarin is not recommended since it has a low molecular weight and crosses the placenta. Various types of new oral anticoagulant drugs have been available in Japan since 2011. However, the Japanese package inserts for these anticoagulants advise quite cautious administration in pregnant women. The guidelines on pregnant women include less information about antiplatelet drugs than anticoagulant drugs. Aspirin may cause teratogenicity and fetal toxicity, and perinatal mortality is increased. However, when low doses of aspirin are administered as antiplatelet therapy, the US Food and Drug Administration has assigned pregnancy category C, and treatment is relatively safe. Neurosurgeons and neurologists commonly encounter pregnant women with thromboembolism, such as ischemic stroke. Up-to-date information and correct selection of drugs are necessary in consultation with specialists in perinatal care.
Ischemic stroke is uncommon during pregnancy, but decision making for acute revascularization therapy including intravenous recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) is difficult. The use of rt-PA remains controversial, but a systematic review of 16 patients (mean age 31.7 years) showed good results for both maternal (77.8%) and fetal (56.3%) outcomes. Pregnancy alone is not a solid contraindication for acute revascularization therapy including rt-PA. An endovascular approach might be beneficial for reducing the hemorrhagic complication; however, the treatment strategy should be considered based on the available treatment facility. Close cooperation with obstetrics is essential for the successful management of saving the lives of both the mother and the fetus.
Stroke during pregnancy is rare, but after occurring, most patients develop serious neurological conditions. Hemorrhagic stroke, including intracerebral hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage, often requires emergency surgical intervention. In addition to significant maternal physiological changes, the potential for fetal harm should be considered during anesthetic management of these patients. Whether cesarean section or neurosurgical intervention should be prioritized or performed simultaneously in pregnant women with stroke is an important issue. Whether the patients receive general or spinal and epidural anesthesia is another clinically significant issue. Finally neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians should cooperate to manage pregnant women with stroke.
There is an increased risk of stroke during pregnancy and the puerperium. Decisions should be made immediately upon transfer to each institution, particularly with respect to when and how to treat the patient. This review highlights the feasibility of endovascular treatment in pregnancy. Most of the pharmaceutical agents and therapeutic devices used in clinical practice can be utilized in pregnant patients. Comprehensive information on the benefits and risks of treatment should be explained to the patient and her family, with particular attention to the safety of the mother and fetus. Radiation exposure to the fetus is also a concern; the hazard can be minimized with optimal protection. Several studies have demonstrated that conventional procedures do not cause serious radiation exposure exceeding the threshold of safety to the fetus. Endovascular therapy can be safely performed for the treatment of acute stroke as in non-pregnant patients with adequate attention to pharmaceutical agents and shielding from radiation. In contrast to therapy for acute stroke, preventive endovascular treatment for asymptomatic lesions remains controversial. Several conditions, such as cerebral aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations, are known to bleed more frequently in pregnancy, but whether the benefits of preventive treatment outweigh the associated risks is unknown. The decision for preventive treatment should be carefully made on a case-by-case basis after extensive discussion with the patient.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) due to the rupture of an intracranial aneurysm (IA) is a rare but serious complication of pregnancy and is responsible for important morbidity and mortality during pregnancy. This study reviewed reports of ruptured IA during pregnancy and the puerperium, and our own cases of ruptured IA in pregnant women. Hemorrhage occurred predominantly during the third trimester of pregnancy, when maternal cardiac output and blood volume increase and reach maximum. Physiological and hormonal changes in pregnancy are likely to affect the risk of IA rupture. Ruptured IAs during pregnancy should be managed based on neurosurgical considerations, and the obstetrical management of women with ruptured IAs should be decided according to the severity of SAH and the gestational age. Emergent cesarean section followed by clipping or coiling of aneurysms is indicated if the maternal condition and the gestational age allow such interventions. Although SAH during pregnancy can result in disastrous outcomes, the necessity of intracranial screening for high-risk pregnant women is still controversial.
Cavernous malformation is a relatively rare disease, but is important in the etiology of cerebral hemorrhage in pregnant and puerperal women. The risk of bleeding is particularly high in patients with a previous history of bleeding, patients with a family history of cavernous malformations, and patients with the causative cerebral cavernous malformation gene. Cavernous malformations are more likely to bleed or to increase in size during pregnancy, under the influence of female hormones and vascular growth factors such as vascular endothelial growth factor. We report our strategy for the treatment of cavernous malformations in pregnant women, with reference to the relevant literature. Asymptomatic patients and those with mild symptoms are usually followed up conservatively by magnetic resonance imaging, without active treatment, but surgical treatment is indicated in patients with severe or progressive symptoms; surgery should also be considered in patients with mild symptoms having risk factors for bleeding. If surgical treatment is selected, the operation plan needs to be devised in collaboration with the specialties of anesthesiology and obstetrics and gynecology, rather than by the brain surgeon alone, in view of the possibility of occurrence of complications specific to pregnant women, such as complications related to weight gain and difficulty in securing the airway, which develop during the perioperative period.
Moyamoya disease is a rare chronic, occlusive cerebrovascular disease characterized by bilateral steno-occlusive changes at the terminal portion of the internal carotid artery and an abnormal vascular network at the base of the brain. Moyamoya disease particularly affects children and young adults with female predominance, thus pregnant patients with moyamoya disease are not uncommon. Among 4,400 patients with consecutive deliveries in our hospital, 6 patients (0.14%) aged from 24 to 40 years (mean 32.7 years) were found to have moyamoya disease, all of whom underwent cesarean section. Four patients who had been diagnosed with moyamoya disease before pregnancy did not show neurological events in pregnancy and puerperium, but two patients who were newly diagnosed or progressed during the perinatal period suffered neurological deterioration due to ischemic stroke. Surgical revascularization at the subacute stage relieved their symptoms and they did not suffer permanent neurological deficit. We recommend that pregnant patients with moyamoya disease should be carefully managed under the collaboration of obstetricians and neurosurgeons, and that the procedure of the delivery should selected by the obstetricians to avoid unfavorable sequelae caused by hyperventilation and/or blood pressure elevation.
We described pregnancy and delivery management in 9 patients with cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Six patients presented with intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) during pregnancy (first hemorrhagic episode); 2 patients presented with headache; and 1 patient with incidental detection of AVM. In the 3 patients with unruptured AVM, the diagnosis was made before pregnancy. In 3 of 6 patients who presented with ICH, AVM removal was performed during pregnancy. One patient required emergency surgery for the mass effect of the hematoma, and 2 patients with Spetzler-Martin grade I and II AVMs underwent elective surgery for the prevention of rebleeding. Radiosurgery for multiple AVMs was performed after delivery in one patient. Surgical resection and radiosurgery were performed after abortion in two patients. Of 3 patients with unruptured AVM, 2 patients became pregnant after radiosurgery and conservative treatment was initiated in 1 patient for Spetzler-Martin grade V AVM. Cesarean section was performed in 5 patients (one with severe uncontrollable pregnancy-induced hypertension) and vaginal delivery in 2 patients (one with grade V AVM). Delivery by obstetrical indication was possible in patients who underwent AVM resection during pregnancy. No rebleeding during pregnancy occurred. The maternal outcome was good except for the 2 patients with consequences of the initial ICH. The fetal outcome was good except for 2 cases of abortion. Pregnancy and delivery management in patients with AVM was successful in our institution. Early surgical intervention for AVM presenting as ICH during pregnancy could prevent rebleeding and improve the maternal and fetal prognosis.