Acute complications of preeclampsia contribute substantially to maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. The considerable variation in onset, clinical presentation, and severity of this hypertensive disease that is unique to pregnancy creates challenges in identifying risk factors for clinical deterioration. Delivery of the fetus remains the only definitive treatment for preeclampsia. Surveillance of signs and symptoms and laboratory parameters consistent with progression in severity requires an appreciation of the dynamic and progressive nature of the disease. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the pathophysiology of preeclampsia, setting the foundation for discussion of management priorities for acute complications that pose the greatest risks to maternal health.

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