Israeli Doctors Save Life of Woman in Childbirth Suffering Rare Complication

Mother revived at Beilinson Hospital after heart failure caused by a blood clot from placenta.

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Maternity ward at Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva
Maternity ward at Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center in Petah TikvaCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

Doctors saved the life of a woman who was giving birth in Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, after she suffered from a rare case of amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) while undergoing a Caesarean section. During childbirth a month ago, the 43-year-old woman’s heart failed and she was revived by hooking her up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) life support system.

During the operation, when the baby was being taken out, the mother suffered from cardiac arrest dues to a clot in her lung caused by amniotic fluid entering her bloodstream, and the doctors immediately tried to revive her. They connected her to the ECMO machine to keep her heart and lungs functioning.

Large blood clot removed from woman at Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva.Credit: Courtesy

Pulmonary and heart surgeons later operated on her in a complicated procedure during which they removed the especially large blood clot that kept the blood from flowing between her heart to her lungs. Her condition remained serious and she has been in intensive care since then, but the hospital said she has shown significant improvement over the past week.

This was the first time in Israel, and one of few instances anywhere in the world, where a women with AFE has been saved by using the ECMO system and surgery, said Prof. Dan Aravot, head of cardiothoracic surgery at Rabin Medical Center.

Last weekend she was shown a video clip with pictures of her baby, whom she has never seen.

Pathology tests on the clot in her lungs supported the diagnosis of AFE, which can contain foreign materials such as amniotic fluid, fetal cells, hair or other material and originates in the placenta, causing a severe allergic reaction, which in turn causes cardio-respiratory collapse. While AFE is uncommon, it has a very high mortality rate, and is estimated to be among the top five causes of the death of mothers during childbirth. It strikes without warning and for now there is no known way to prevent it, only to treat the mother after it occurs.

“Every year, about two women in Israel die from amniotic fluid embolism,” said Prof. Arnon Wiznitzer, director of the Helen Schneider Hospital for Women at Rabin Medical Center. “The rare complication of amniotic fluid embolism endangered the mother’s life. We are proud that we succeeded in saving her life, as a result of quick action by the Women’s Hospital staff,” he said.

“I hope that because of this breakthrough the lives of other mothers in Israel will be saved. The operating room team, the cardiothoracic surgery intensive care unit staff, along with the doctors and nurses, worked day and night in order to save her life, and we are happy that we succeeded,” said Aravot.

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