Heart ultrasounds could reduce common C-section risks

1 November 2023 |

Caesarean section surgery is performed in about 36 per cent of births in Australia. However, when women with undiagnosed cardiac disease undergo this procedure, it can lead to complications during and after surgery.

This study sheds light on the need to improve screening and diagnosis of higher risk patients before surgery, using echocardiography  (a heart ultrasound).

Lead Researcher Professor Alicia Dennis said the study reviewed the cases of 763 Australian patients who were admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICU) after caesarean section surgery over a five‑year period.

These cases included patients who did not have any previously known heart problems.

The study found 56 of the patients cared for in ICU were given an echocardiogram during their admission into ICU.

Two out of every three of these patients required this heart ultrasound because of pulmonary hypertension or high blood pressure in the blood vessels supplying the lungs.

This condition cannot be easily diagnosed with other routine tests such as blood tests, chest X‑rays or listening to the heart with a stethoscope.

The study’s findings support the use of echocardiography in pregnant patients who are at high risk of heart problems, prior to them undergoing caesarean section surgery.

The study also highlighted the importance of early diagnosis and targeted management of cardiac disease during pregnancy to significantly improve outcomes for both mother and baby.

“The next steps are to broaden the reach of echocardiography teaching and research by continuing to establish national and international collaborations,” Prof Dennis said.

“And to incorporate echocardiography teaching into anaesthesiology and critical care training, especially in obstetric anaesthesiology, perioperative medicine and critical care, so obstetric patients can benefit from its use in routine clinical practice.”

This research was published in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.