Magnesium sulphate and other anticonvulsants for women with pre-eclampsia

Cochrane Review by Duley L, Gülmezoglu AM, Henderson-Smart DJ

This record should be cited as: Duley L, Gülmezoglu AM, Henderson-Smart DJ. Magnesium sulphate and other anticonvulsants for women with pre-eclampsia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD000025. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000025.

ABSTRACT

Title

Magnesium sulphate and other anticonvulsants for women with pre-eclampsia

Background

Pre-eclampsia is a relatively common complication of pregnancy. Eclampsia, the occurrence of one or more convulsions (fits) in association with the syndrome of pre-eclampsia, is a rare but serious complication. Anticonvulsants are used in the belief they help prevent eclamptic fits and so improve outcome.

Objectives

The objective was to assess the effects of anticonvulsants for pre-eclampsia on the women and their children.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register (28 November 2002), and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2002).

Selection criteria

Randomised trials comparing anticonvulsants with placebo or no anticonvulsants or comparisons of different anticonvulsants in women with pre-eclampsia.

Data collection and analysis

Two reviewers assessed trial quality and extracted data independently.

Main results

Six trials (11,444 women) compared magnesium sulphate with placebo or no anticonvulsant. There was more than a halving in the risk of eclampsia associated with magnesium sulphate (relative risk (RR) 0.41, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.29 to 0.58; number needed to treat (NNT) 100, 95% CI 50 to 100). The risk of dying was non-significantly reduced by 46% for women allocated magnesium sulphate (RR 0.54, 95% CI 0.26 to 1.10). For serious maternal morbidity RR 1.08, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.32. Side effects were more common with magnesium sulphate (24% versus 5%; RR 5.26, 95% CI 4.59 to 6.03; NNT for harm 6, 95% CI 6 to 5). The main side effect was flushing. Risk of placental abruption was reduced for women allocated magnesium sulphate (RR 0.64, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.83; NNT 100, 95% CI 50 to 1000). Women allocated magnesium sulphate had a small increase (5%) in the risk of caesarean section (95% CI 1% to 10%). There was no overall difference in the risk of stillbirth or neonatal death (RR 1.04, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.15).

Authors' conclusions

Magnesium sulphate more than halves the risk of eclampsia, and probably reduces the risk of maternal death. It does not improve outcome for the baby, in the short term. A quarter of women have side effects, particularly flushing.

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