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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 30-32

Complications of severe pre-eclampsia associated with acute intestinal intussusception—A case report

Yaounde University Hospital Center; Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Yaounde 1, Cameroon

Date of Submission26-Aug-2020
Date of Acceptance27-Dec-2020
Date of Web Publication16-Apr-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Berinyuy Emelinda Nyuydzefon
Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Yaounde 1, PO BOX 1364, Yaounde
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/joacc.JOACC_93_20

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We present a challenging case of severe pre-eclampsia later complicated by eclampsia, severe renal failure, intestinal intussusception, septic shock, and stroke in a 26-year-old female primigravid patient in third trimester. We navigate through the diagnostic and therapeutic challenges faced in managing our patient to bring out lessons and proposals to prevent and manage similar cases in the future.

Keywords: Acute kidney Injury (AKI), case report, eclampsia, HELLP syndrome, intussusception, septic shock, stroke

How to cite this article:
Bonaventure J, Nyuydzefon BE, Bifouna IC, Agnes E. Complications of severe pre-eclampsia associated with acute intestinal intussusception—A case report. J Obstet Anaesth Crit Care 2021;11:30-2

How to cite this URL:
Bonaventure J, Nyuydzefon BE, Bifouna IC, Agnes E. Complications of severe pre-eclampsia associated with acute intestinal intussusception—A case report. J Obstet Anaesth Crit Care [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jun 14];11:30-2. Available from: https://www.joacc.com/text.asp?2021/11/1/30/313915

  Introduction Top

Severe pre-eclampsia is a life-threatening condition in pregnancy complicating 4 to 10% of all pregnancies[1],[2] especially in Africa.[3] It often presents as new-onset hypertension and proteinuria during the third trimester, and can progress rapidly, leading to death of both mother and fetus.[3] Complications seen as a result of the pathology include Eclampsia, HELLP, perinatal death, and acute kidney injury (AKI).[1],[3],[4] Rare complications include stroke.[5],[6] Intussusception during this period is very rare[7],[8] No such case has yet been reported. Our patient developed several complications (Eclampsia, HELLP, AKI), including Stroke and intestinal intussception. We navigate through the diagnostic and therapeutic challenges faced in her management and thus draw lessons and proposals to prevent and treat similar cases in the future.

  Case History Top

The 26-year-old, G1P1ooo, was referred for better management of altered consciousness and oliguria 12 hours postpartum.

Patient's blood pressure were normal at 38 weeks gestation. However, at 40 weeks, during labor, she presented raised blood pressure: 170/123 mmHg, headache VAS 8/10, followed by 3 episodes of generalized tonico-clonic seizures. She was rushed to a nearby health center where eclampsia was then diagnosed on admission and treatment initiated rapidly with a loading dose of 14 g MgSO4 and IV Nicardipine. Further work up revealed raised liver enzymes ASAT = 521 UI, ALAT = 217 UI, Proteinuria +++, low platelets 80,000/mm3, leucocytosis 14060/mm3, urea = 0.23 g/l, creatinine = 11.5 mg/l, and Hb: 12.5 g/dl. HELLP syndrome was diagnosed. She received 2 units of fresh frozen plasma, and was delivered of a male stillborn 24 hours after admission. Eight hours later oliguria, hematuria, and an altered state of consciousness (GCS: 10/15) set in motivating her transfer to our intensive care unit (ICU) for better management.

Upon admission, biological work up revealed impaired renal function (Urea: 0.48 g/l, Creatine: 23.7 mg/l), raised liver enzymes (10-fold normal) and moderate hyperkalemia k: 5.59 mEq/L. FBC revealed leucocytosis, 21130/mm3 predominantly neutrophyles 15210/mm3 (suggesting bacterial sepsis), severe anemia (Hb: 5.7 g/dl), and moderate thrombocytopenia (Platelets: 70,000/mm3). Our working diagnosis was eclampsia complicated by HELLP syndrome, stage 3 acute kidney injury and severe anemia sepsis. She was thus administered normal saline 40 ml/kg, 3 units fresh whole blood, MgSO4 0.5 g/hr IV, and phenobarbital 3 mg/kg for prevention of seizures. Hemostatic agents (tranxenamic acid 8 g IV continuous infusion for 24 hours), Oxytocics, antihypertensives (nicardipine) as well as amoxicillin-clavulanic acid as antibiotic were used in optimal doses. Insulin 10 units in 10% glucose was used to manage hyperkalemia. Omeprazole 40 mg IV was administered to prevent stress ulcer. Patient was given oxygen by nasal prongs (3 l/m) and monitored with a cardioscope.

Despite optimal treatment, only transient amelioration was noticed within 48 hours with return of consciousness. Day 3 of hospitalization was marked by aggravation of renal function, with the development of acute pulmonary oedema treated with IV frusemide 1 mg/kg/6 hours. Day 4 hospitalization was marked by complaints of right upper quadrant abdominal pains associated with no passage of flatus and feces. These associated with worsening renal function urée/créatinine: 1,25 g/l/68,1 mg/l and anuria necessitated initiation of hemodialysis. An abdominal ultrasound revealed small intestinal intussusception of the right flank and a large uterus with heterogenous content. An emergency laparotomy was thus performed under general anesthesia. Per-operative surgical management was by manual reduction of the intussuscepted segment. Meticulous inspection by palpation and translumination of the patient's entire small bowel showed no lead point. Uterine revision was also done leading to the evacuation of a heterogenous uterine content, suspicious of containing placenta remnants and blood clots. Immediate evolution post operatively was marked by, severe anemia requiring transfusion of 2 units of RBCs, persistence of SIRS. Antibiotherapy was with immipinem 500 mg/8 hrs, amikacin 500 mg/48 hourly and Metronidazole 500 mg/8 hours IV. Hemodialysis was continued (thrice weekly).

Despite treatment, day 9 post-op was marked by respiratory distress, partial myoclonic seizures, hypotension, and a SOFA score of 10. A diagnosis of septic shock was made. A left sub-clavian central line was placed for fluid resuscitation with crystalloids and vasopressor Adrenaline in electric syringe. The patient was intubated and placed on volume control artificial ventilation. Culture specimens were collected and a cerebral CT scan was done. Treatment of septic shock necessitated adjustment of antibiotics to Ofloxacin 200 mg/12 hours IV, Amikacin 500 mg/48 hours initially titrated to renal function following sensitivity of Klebsiella and Pseudomonas sp on culture results. CT scan was unrevealing. Evolution was favorable. Extubation was 48 hours after endotracheal intubation and apyrexia on day 17 post-op. However, patient had as sequellae aphasia due probably to an acute ischemic stroke (normal CT scan). Physiotherapy with a speech therapist was initiated with good response. Patient was discharged on the 27th postoperative day and is regularly followed by the gynecologist, the psychologist, and the speech therapist.

  Discussion Top

Eclampsia occurs with an incidence that varies between 9 and 34 per 1000 live births in sub-Saharan Africa and about 1/105 deliveries in Cameroon.[9] HELLP syndrome occurs in 0.1%-0.6% of all pregnancies and in 4%-12% of patients with severe pre-eclampsia. It typically occurs between week 27 of gestation and delivery, or immediately postpartum in 15%-30% of cases.[10] Maternal deaths in HELLP range from 4 to 14.28% with perinatal deaths ranging from 9.1 to 46.73%.[11],[12],[13] As in the case of our patient, the incidence of HELLP syndrome mostly occurs in primigravid and primiparous women when compared to multiparous women.[14]

On the other hand, renal failure is frequently seen in severe pre-eclampsia especially when complicated by HELLP with an incidence of 21.1%.[11],[15] The most common histological lesion being acute tubular necrosis (ATN). However, renal cortical necrosis has been reported in pre-eclamptic women with AKI.[16] Sepsis and low intravascular volume due to intussusception could have initiated or worsened AKI in our patient.[17],[18] Pregnancy-related AKI may have long-term renal, cardiovascular and neurocognitive consequences beyond the post-partum period and therefore must be managed aggressively.[19],[20]

Preeclampsia being a multiorgan endotheliopathy, affects not only kidneys and liver but also the brain leading to stroke. It is shown to be most common in the peripartum and postpartum periods.[21],[22] Management requires timely brain imaging, supportive and antihypertensive treatment.[22] Sepsis on admission, prothrombotic states and coagulopathies are shown to be associated with probability of stroke in pre-eclampsia[21],[23] much consistent with our patients profile. Thrombolysis with recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) administered within 4.5 hours of stroke onset is shown to significantly improve overall outcome.[5],[24] However, such management wasn't available at the time of diagnosis of our patient.

A rare complication our patient had was intestinal intussusception. Pregnancy-associated bowel obstruction varies from 1 in 1500 to 1 in 66,431 deliveries[25] and is most often diagnosed in the post-partum period.[26],[27] Co-existing intussusception and severe pre-eclampsia is quite rare. We know that any irritation within bowel walls that alter normal peristaltic activity can initiate intussusception. These could include inflammation.[8] We also know that inflammation of the liver and stretching of the hepatic capsule accounts for right upperquadrant/epigastric pain in severe pre-eclampsia. However, that this inflammation can stretch to adjacent intestinal walls is not known, but is the only explanation we suggest for this idiopathic intestinal intussusception in the right upper quadrant in our patient.

While the cause of preeclampsia is still debated, clinical and pathological studies suggest that the placenta is central to the pathogenesis of this syndrome[3] Management often requires evacuation of the placenta, leading us to think that uterine evacuation in the case of our patient could have relieved some symptoms of post-partum eclampsia.[28]

The importance of biomarkers which correlate with disease severity and could have prognostic value in identifying women who subsequently develop maternal and/or perinatal complications[29] cannot be over emphasized in the case of our patient. This however was not applicable in our setting.

  Conclusion Top

Severe pre-eclampsia is a life-threatening pathology in pregnancy and the peuperium. When associated with sepsis and HELLP syndrome, a patient is likely to present several other complications such as acute renal failure, acute abdomen, and stroke. Such patients should be closely monitored and managed expectantly, especially if primiparous. Biomakers for pre-eclamspsia could be beneficial in detecting patients with possibility of poor prognosis.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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