Maternal cardiac arrest in the Netherlands: A nationwide surveillance study

Timme P. Schaap*, Evelien Overtoom, Thomas van den Akker, Joost J. Zwart, Jos van Roosmalen, Kitty W.M. Bloemenkamp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Maternal cardiac arrest is a complex and demanding clinical situation requiring a well-attuned team effort of healthcare workers of multiple disciplines. A recent report on maternal cardiac arrest in the United Kingdom reported a rise in incidence over a span of 10 years, while maternal mortality increased in the United States between 2000 and 2014. However, reported causes of maternal cardiac arrest differed between both countries. Objective(s): To determine the incidence, causes and management of maternal cardiac arrest in the Netherlands and compare incidence with previous estimates in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Study design: Using the Netherlands Obstetric Surveillance System, all Dutch cases of maternal cardiac arrest during a three-year period (2013–2016) were prospectively collected. Complete casefile copies were obtained for analysis. Main outcome measures were incidence of maternal cardiac arrest and cardiac arrest in pregnancy, use of perimortem caesarean section if appropriate and maternal death. Results: The monthly card return rate was 97%; 18 women with cardiac arrest during pregnancy and 20 postpartum met the inclusion criteria. Incidence of maternal cardiac arrest was 7.6 per 100,000 pregnancies and 3.6 per 100,000 pregnancies excluding postpartum maternal cardiac arrest. Main causes were pulmonary embolism (n = 9), major obstetric hemorrhage (n = 7) and amniotic fluid embolism (n = 6). Aortocaval compression relief and perimortem caesarean section were performed in 9/14 (29%) and 11/14 (79%) respectively in pregnancies 20 weeks gestational age onwards. Twenty-two women died, representing a case fatality rate of 58% (95% CI 42–72%). Conclusion(s): There is a higher incidence of cardiac arrest in pregnancy compared to both previous estimates in the Netherlands and recently established figures in the United Kingdom. Main causes of maternal cardiac arrest are potentially preventable and/or treatable complications of pregnancy. Insufficient use of critical elements of obstetric resuscitation identifies the need for enhanced obstetric emergency training for obstetric and non-obstetric first responders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-150
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
Early online date19 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Cardiac arrest
  • Maternal morbidity
  • Perimortem CS


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