HELLP Syndrome...A Pregnancy Complication
HELLP syndrome: A syndrome featuring a combination of "H" for hemolysis (breakage of red blood cells), "EL" for elevated liver enzymes, and "LP" for low platelet count (an essential blood clotting element).
The HELLP syndrome is a recognized complication of preeclampsia and eclampsia (toxemia) and occurs in 20% of women with severe preeclampsia and 10% of women with eclampsia.
Common symptoms in women with the HELLP syndrome include a general feeling of feeling unwell (malaise), nausea and/or vomiting, and pain in the upper abdomen. Increased fluid in the tissues (edema) is also frequent. Protein is measurable in the urine of most women with the HELLP syndrome. Blood pressure may be elevated. Occasionally, coma can result from seriously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
The first order of treatment of HELLP syndrome is management of the blood clotting issues. If fetal growth is restricted, urgent delivery can be required. If the HELLP syndrome develops at or after 34 weeks of gestation or if the fetus' lungs are mature or mother's health is in jeopardy, urgent delivery is the treatment.
After delivery, the mother's status is monitored closely. The HELLP syndrome can be complicated by liver rupture or failure, anemia, bleeding, and death. The HELLP syndrome can also develop during the early period after delivery of a baby.
Women with a history of HELLP syndrome are considered at increased risk for complications in future pregnancies.
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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care July 13, 2017