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Ann Rheum Dis. Feb 2005; 64(2): 273–278.
PMCID: PMC1755358

The HELLP syndrome in the antiphospholipid syndrome: retrospective study of 16 cases in 15 women

Abstract

Objective: To study the characteristics of the haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelets (HELLP) syndrome in the antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) and its influence on the subsequent pregnancies.

Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of 16 episodes of HELLP complicating APS in 15 women.

Results: HELLP was complete in 10 cases and partial in six. It occurred during the second trimester in seven cases (the earliest at 18 weeks' gestation), the third trimester in seven cases, and the day following delivery in two cases. Pre-eclampsia was present in six cases and eclampsia in five. Outcome of pregnancies was: live birth (n = 8), stillbirth (n = 2) and fetal death (n = 6). APS was primary in nine women and secondary to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in six. HELLP revealed primary APS in six cases. Seven women were not treated. Low dose aspirin was empirically prescribed in one woman whose APS had been undiagnosed despite a history of two fetal deaths. In the other women, therapy consisted of aspirin (n = 8), low molecular weight heparin with a dose varying between 3000 and 12 000 U daily (n = 5), and high dose immunoglobulin every 4 weeks (n = 2), hydroxychloroquine (n = 4), and prednisone (n = 6). Six women had seven subsequent pregnancies, 3–6 years after the complicated pregnancy. HELLP recurred at 33 weeks' gestation in one woman with SLE treated with prednisone, hydroxychloroquine, aspirin, and enoxaparin, and pregnancy ended in live birth. One woman became pregnant after in vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer, but pregnancy ended in fetal death despite prednisone, hydroxychloroquine, and enoxaparin. Four women had five uneventful pregnancies with 100 mg daily aspirin and heparin.

Conclusions: APS may be revealed by HELLP. In APS, HELLP is associated with pre-eclampsia/eclampsia in most cases and seems to occur earlier than in the general population. Heparin plus aspirin may prevent obstetric complications in the subsequent pregnancies.

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Selected References

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Figures and Tables

Figure 1
 Date of HELLP onset in APS.

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