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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1990 Feb;162(2):311-6.

The HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets): much ado about nothing?

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Tennessee, Memphis.


The question of whether the HELLP syndrome exists as a distinct entity or is part of a spectrum of pregnancy complications, which have in common hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and thrombocytopenia, has long been a source of speculation and debate among obstetricians and internists. A review of the literature indicates a definite need for a uniform definition, diagnosis, and management of this syndrome. Patients manifesting this syndrome usually are seen before term (less than 36 weeks' gestation) complaining of malaise (90%), epigastric or right upper-quadrant pain (90%), and nausea or vomiting (50%), and some will have nonspecific viral-syndrome-like symptoms. Hypertension and proteinuria may be absent or slight. Thus some of these patients may have a variety of signs and symptoms, none of which are diagnostic of classic preeclampsia. In consideration of the high maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity reported with the presence of this syndrome, I recommend that all pregnant women having any of these symptoms should have a complete blood cell count with platelet and liver enzyme determinations irrespective of maternal blood pressure.

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