HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets) pathophysiology and anesthetic considerations.AANA J. 1997 Feb; 65(1):37-47.AJ
HELLP syndrome in the parturient (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count) is associated with poor maternal and fetal outcomes. Maternal mortality has been estimated to be as high as 24%. Patients with HELLP syndrome are also at greater risk of pulmonary edema, adult respiratory distress syndrome, abruptio placentae, disseminated intravascular coagulation, ruptured liver hematomas, and acute renal failure. Perinatal mortality is equally high, ranging from 79 to 367 per 1,000 live births, and neonatal complications correlate with the severity of maternal disease. Many clinicians view HELLP syndrome as an entity of preeclampsia, and because of varied symptomatology, the initial diagnosis may be obscured. Prodromal signs include: (1) weakness and fatigue, (2) nausea and vomiting, (3) right upper quadrant and/or epigastric pain, (4) headache, (5) changes in vision, (6) increased tendency to bleed from minor trauma, (7) jaundice, (8) diarrhea, and (9) shoulder or neck pain. Before delivery, aggressive obstetric management is directed toward stabilization of the affected organ systems, if possible, and timely interruption of the pregnancy in the early phase of the accelerated disease progression. Definitive therapy is delivery. Parturients with HELLP syndrome are often critically ill; their infants are frequently premature and their conditions are compromised. Management criteria should include a multidisciplinary approach in a tertiary care center. Obstetric anesthesia personnel should perform a thorough preanesthetic evaluation and be familiar with the pathophysiologic changes of this syndrome. Determining the anesthetic of choice depends on the patient's condition, fetal well-being, and the urgency of the situation. In the presence of severe coagulopathy, regional anesthesia is contraindicated.