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Practice Essentials

Abruptio placentae is defined as the premature separation of the placenta

from the uterus. Patients with abruptio placentae, also called placental
abruption, typically present with bleeding, uterine contractions, and fetal
distress. A significant cause of third-trimester bleeding associated with fetal
and maternal morbidity and mortality, placental abruption must be
considered whenever bleeding is encountered in the second half of
pregnancy. [1] Placental abruption is demonstrated in the image below.
(See Clinical.)

Placental abruption seen

after delivery.
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Hemorrhage into the decidua basalis occurs as the placenta separates
from the uterus. Vaginal bleeding usually follows, although the presence of
a concealed hemorrhage in which the blood pools behind the placenta is
possible. (See Workup.)
Hematoma formation further separates the placenta from the uterine wall,
causing compression of these structures and compromise of blood supply
to the fetus. Retroplacental blood may penetrate through the thickness of
the uterine wall into the peritoneal cavity, a phenomenon known as
Couvelaire uterus. The myometrium in this area becomes weakened and
may rupture with increased intrauterine pressure during contractions. A
myometrium rupture immediately leads to a life-threatening obstetric
emergency. (See Treatment.)
Classification of placental abruption
Classification of placental abruption is based on extent of separation (ie,
partial vs complete) and location of separation (ie, marginal vs central).
(See Clinical.) Clinical classification is as follows:
 Class 0 - Asymptomatic
 Class 1 - Mild (represents approximately 48% of all cases)
 Class 2 - Moderate (represents approximately 27% of all cases)
 Class 3 - Severe (represents approximately 24% of all cases)
A diagnosis of class 0 is made retrospectively by finding an organized
blood clot or a depressed area on a delivered placenta.
Class 1 characteristics include the following:
 No vaginal bleeding to mild vaginal bleeding
 Slightly tender uterus
 Normal maternal BP and heart rate
 No coagulopathy
 No fetal distress
Class 2 characteristics include the following:
 No vaginal bleeding to moderate vaginal bleeding
 Moderate to severe uterine tenderness with possible tetanic
 Maternal tachycardia with orthostatic changes in BP and heart rate
 Fetal distress
 Hypofibrinogenemia (ie, 50-250 mg/dL)
Class 3 characteristics include the following:
 No vaginal bleeding to heavy vaginal bleeding
 Very painful tetanic uterus
 Maternal shock
 Hypofibrinogenemia (ie, < 150 mg/dL)
 Coagulopathy
 Fetal death