Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

HELLP Syndrome

High-Risk Pregnancy - HELLP Syndrome

What is HELLP syndrome?

HELLP syndrome is a serious complication of severe gestational hypertension (high blood pressure problems of pregnancy). The actual incidence is not known, but it appears to develop in 1 to 2 out of 1,000 pregnancies, and in 10 to 20 percent of pregnant women with severe preeclampsia or eclampsia. It usually develops before delivery but may occur postpartum (after delivery) as well. HELLP syndrome consists of the following problems:

What causes HELLP syndrome?

The cause of HELLP syndrome is unknown. Some conditions may increase the risk of developing HELLP syndrome, including the following:

Why is HELLP syndrome a concern?

In addition to the risks of high blood pressure during pregnancy, which include poor blood flow to organs and possible seizures, HELLP syndrome can cause other problems. The breakdown of red blood cells may cause anemia, and blood clotting problems may occur.

A serious blood clotting complication called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) may lead to severe bleeding or hemorrhage. Placental abruption (early detachment of the placenta) may also occur. Pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs) is also a serious complication.

Severe disease may place the mother and fetus in danger and it may be necessary to deliver the baby early to prevent further complications. Recovery from HELLP syndrome may take several days after delivery. HELLP syndrome is a serious disease and can be life threatening for both mother and her baby.

What are the symptoms of HELLP syndrome?

The following are the most common symptoms of HELLP syndrome. However, each woman may exhibit experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of HELLP syndrome may resemble other medical conditions, including pregnancy-induced hypertension. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is HELLP syndrome diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for HELLP syndrome may include:

Treatment for HELLP syndrome

Specific treatment for HELLP syndrome will be determined by your doctor based on:

Treatment may include:

Prevention of HELLP syndrome

Early identification of women at risk for HELLP syndrome may help prevent some complications of the disease. Education about the warning signs is also important because early recognition may help women receive treatment and prevent worsening of the disease.

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