HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening complication of pre-eclampsia. Both conditions occur during the latter stages of pregnancy, or sometimes after childbirth. more...
HELLP is an abbreviation of the main findings:
- Hemolytic anemia
- Elevated Liver enzymes and
- Low Platelet count
Signs and symptoms
Often, a patient who develops HELLP syndrome has already been followed up for gestational hypertension, or is suspected to develop pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure and proteinuria). Up to 8% of all cases present after delivery.
There is gradual but marked onset of headaches (30%), blurred vision, malaise (90%), nausea/vomiting (30%), "band pain" around the upper abdomen (65%) and tingling in the extremities. Oedema may occur but its absence does not exclude HELLP syndrome. Arterial hypertension is a diagnostic requirement, but may be mild. Rupture of the liver capsule and a resultant hematoma may occur. If the patient gets a seizure or coma, the condition has progressed into full-blown eclampsia.
In a patient with possible HELLP syndrome, a batch of blood tests is performed: a full blood count, liver enzymes, renal function and electrolytes and coagulation studies. Often, fibrin degradation products (FDPs) are determined, which can be elevated. Lactate dehydrogenase is a marker of hemolysis and is elevated (>600 U/liter). Proteinuria is present but can be mild.
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