The diagnosis of HELLP syndrome is made difficult because the presenting symptoms are vague and non-specific. Approximately 90% of patients present with viral type symptoms, malaise, nausea, and headache, and 65% complain of epigastric pain . Early diagnosis of this disorder is critical to a good outcome so any woman presenting in the third trimester with these symptoms should have a complete blood cell count and liver function tests to rule it out .
The most common symptoms of HELLP syndrome include :
Diagnosis of HELLP syndrome is based on three criteria:
The physical examination in women with HELLP syndrome may be normal except for right upper quadrant tenderness which is present in about 90% of cases. Edema may also be present but is not significant because it is as common in normal pregnancies .
The platelet count is the most reliable indicator of HELLP syndrome. The D-dimer test may be a useful tool for the early identification of patients with preeclampsia who may develop severe HELLP syndrome .
In any pregnant woman, HELLP syndrome should be suspected with a significant drop in the platelet count. A positive D-dimer test in patients with preeclampsia has been seen to indicate those who will develop HELLP syndrome as it is a more sensitive to subclinical coagulopathy .
Laboratory studies should include :
Imaging studies are only recommended when severe liver involvement is suspected by worsening liver function tests. In this case computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or hepatic ultrasound are suggested  .
Early diagnosis and treatment is critical in the management of HELLP syndrome as delayed intervention increases the mortality and morbidity rates significantly. Maternal mortality rate have been reported to be as high as 25%  .
The foundation of optimal treatment of HELLP syndrome is supportive care, including seizure prevention and blood pressure control . Women at term should be delivered as soon as possible. Those at less than 34 weeks should be managed conservatively . Severe HELLP syndrome is progressive and sudden maternal deterioration can occur. Delivery is the only effective treatment therapy  .
Stabilization and initial treatment of HELLP syndrome involve:
Patients should be monitored closely once they are stabilized. This is done best in the labor and delivery department of a tertiary health center  . Patients close to 34 weeks gestation who have no clinical or laboratory improvement may require immediate delivery .
Treatment for unstable HELLP syndrome   :
The treatment approach is different for each patient and should be based on the estimated gestational age and the condition of the mother and fetus .
Symptoms of HELLP syndrome usually resolve rapidly within 24-48 hours of delivery with normal platelet counts by 5 days  .
Persistence of hemolysis for longer than 72 hours, increasing hepatic or renal failure indicates the potential for life-threatening complications. These require further treatment such as: plasmapheresis, plasma volume expansion, antithrombotic agents, plasma exchange, transfusion, or dialysis .
Maternal complications, including disseminated intravascular coagulation, placental abruption and acute renal failure, are common and potentially life-threatening  .
The recurrence rate of HELLP syndrome with subsequent pregnancies is 2%-27% . Patients also have an increased risk of preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension, preterm delivery, and placental abruption in future pregnancies .
Early diagnosis and treatment ensures the best maternal and perinatal outcomes  .
HELLP syndrome was identified in the early 20th century as a subtype of preeclampsia . In 1982 the acronym HELLP was used to describe the primary characteristics of hemolysis, elevated liver enzyme levels and low platelet count   . The cause of HELLP syndrome is unknown, although multiple theories have been advanced. HELLP syndrome is a microangiopathic hemolytic anemia resulting in small, diffuse areas of hemorrhage .
Risk factors for HELLP syndrome include the following  :
Maternal mortality rates have been reported to be as high as 25% and are dependent on time of diagnosis, maternal health, and availability of advanced medical care . Cerebral hemorrhage is the most common cause of death .
Complications of HELLP syndrome include the following :
Fetal morbidity and mortality rates range from 9% to 24% . The usually cause are placental abruption, intrauterine asphyxia, or prematurity . The early diagnosis and treatment of HELLP syndrome is difficult due to the vague, nonspecific signs and symptoms of this disorder .
HELLP syndrome is rare, occurring in approximately 0.1% to 0.6% of all pregnancies. The incidence is higher in patients with preeclampsia occurring in 4%-12% of these patients  .
HELLP syndrome occurs in weeks 22 to 27, at delivery, or immediately postpartum in 15%-30% of cases  .
The incidence of HELLP syndrome is significantly higher in Caucasians of European descent and women older than 25 years of age. 
Mortality rates  :
Recurrence in subsequent pregnancies is 4%–19% .
The pathology of HELLP syndrome is not well understood. Symptoms of this multisystem disease are a result of abnormal vascular tone, vasospasm and altered coagulation  No common precipitating factor has been determined however. Whatever the trigger, it leads to microvascular endothelial injury and platelet activation with the release of thromboxane A and serotonin. This causes a cascade of vasospasm, platelet agglutination, and further endothelial damage  . The process only stops with delivery .
HELLP syndrome involves a hemolytic anemia where red blood cells destroyed by the small damaged blood vessels. Elevated liver enzyme levels are secondary to obstruction of hepatic blood flow, liver damage, intrahepatic hemorrhage, or possible hepatic rupture   . The thrombocytopenia has been attributed to increased consumption and/or destruction of platelets .
Many theories have been proposed to explain the pathogenesis, but the true pathology is unknown. One theory regarding the cause of HELLP syndrome is that it is a form of severe preeclampsia, and the pathophysiology is the same. It postulates that there is a release various placental factors due to inadequate placental perfusion during the 16-22 week of pregnancy  . This results in hypertension, proteinuria, and increased platelet depletion .
Another theory proposes that HELLP syndrome results from the alteration of the maternal-fetal immune balance, causing the symptoms of the disorder . This suggests an inflammatory response targeting the liver  .
Complications of HELLP syndrome for the mother include :
Complications for the neonate resulting from HELLP syndrome :
There is currently no known means of preventing HELLP syndrome. However, early recognition and treatment of this disorder with a multidisciplinary approach can reduce maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality  .
HELLP syndrome is a serious, potentially life-threatening, complication of pregnancy  . It is characterized by: (H) hemolysis, (EL) elevated liver enzyme levels, and (LP) low platelet levels  . These symptoms give the disorder its name. HELLP syndrome has been associated with poor maternal and neonatal outcomes .
Those at highest risk of HELLP syndrome are white, multiparous women over 25 years of age with a poor past pregnancy history. It occurs most often between 27 and 37 weeks gestation   .
The clinical presentation of HELLP syndrome is often vague leading to initial misdiagnosis and delayed treatment  . Patients may present with viral type symptoms, malaise, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Complaints of epigastric or right upper quadrant pain should alert healthcare providers to the possible diagnosis of HELLP syndrome .
It is theorized that HELLP is a severe form of preeclampsia. However, while preeclampsia is characterized by gestational hypertension with proteinuria, these symptoms are not always present in HELLP syndrome . Another theory is that HELLP syndrome is a separate disorder .
The cause of HELLP syndrome is unknown and there is no known means of prevention .
What is HELLP syndrome?
HELLP syndrome is a serious, often life-threatening complication of pregnancy. Its name comes from the three primary features of the disorder: Hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelet count. HELLP syndrome can result in maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. It needs to be identified and treated early for the best prognosis.
What are the symptoms of HELLP syndrome?
The symptoms of HELLP syndrome are vague and non-specific making diagnosis difficult. Symptoms include:
What causes HELLP syndrome?
The cause of HELLP syndrome is not known. It is believed to be related to preeclampsia and eclampsia. Symptoms are the result of injury to the lining of the blood vessels with accumulation of platelets. The damaged vessels cause destruction of red blood cells and interrupted blood flow to the liver and kidneys.
Who gets HELLP syndrome?
HELLP syndrome occurs most frequently in Caucasian women, over the age of 25, in their third trimester of pregnancy. Those women who have preeclampsia or who have had previous problem pregnancies are at higher risk.
How is HELLP syndrome diagnosed?
There is no specific diagnostic testing for HELLP syndrome. However, any woman with the above symptoms and a low platelet count and abnormal liver function tests should be further evaluated for the disorder.
How is it treated?
The only truly effective means of treating HELLP syndrome is delivery as soon as possible. Patients must first be stabilized by controlling associated hypertension and preventing the complication of seizures. Pre-term pregnancies may be treated conservatively with antiseizure and antihypertensive medications. Corticosteroids may also be effective in controlling maternal symptoms and complication of fetal immaturity.
What are the complications?
The complications of HELLP syndrome include:
For the mother:
Complications for the neonate:
How can HELLP syndrome be prevented?
There is currently no known means of preventing HELLP syndrome. However, early recognition and treatment of this disorder with a multidisciplinary approach can reduce maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality.