What is HELLP Syndrome? HELLP Syndrome is a rare, but serious complication that occurs in up to 12 percent of the women who have preeclampsia.
The syndrome is named after the main characteristics of the disease, namely Hemolysis (break down of red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes, which can cause liver damage, and Low Platelet count (platelets are involved in blood clotting).
What are the symptoms of HELLP Syndrome?
- a gradual onset of headaches
- weakness & fatigue
- blurred vision
- nausea & vomiting
- pain around the upper abdomen
- tingling in the extremities
One of the problems in diagnosing HELLP, is that not every woman exhibits all of these symptoms, so any woman showing a mixture of symptoms, should be evaluated for HELLP. Unfortunately, HELLP syndrome is often disdiagnosed in the early stages, increasing the risks of liver failure and death. If you are pregnant, and suffering from any of the above symptoms, please consult your doctor as soon as possible.
How is HELLP Syndrome Diagnosed?
Diagnosing HELLP syndrome may include:
- Full physical examination
- blood pressure measurement
- red blood cell count
- bilirubin level
- liver function tests
- platelet count
- urine tests for protein
Platelet counts are considered good indicators of HELLP severity (the Mississippi classification system). Class I is the most severe, with less than 50 million/l Class II is between 50 – 100 million/l Class III is greater than 100 million/l
How is HELLP Syndrome Treated?
Some medications have been looked at for treating HELLP, but the results of tests are inconclusive. Those treatments include:
- Magnesium sulphate which is throught to reduce the risk of seizures and slow the progress of eclampsia.
- fresh frozen plasma
- blood transfusion to treat anaemia.
- In mild cases, corticosteroids and antihypertensives may be sufficient.
- Intravenous fluids.
Cesarean delivery of the baby is the only effective treatment, even if it the baby is premature. The decision is usually made early because of deteriorating health (and liver function) of the mother becomes a threat to both moth and baby.
Complications of HELLP syndrome
Failure to effectively treat HELLP can lead to liver damage, and even death. Please consult your doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed above.