Clinical utility of strict diagnostic criteria for the HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets) syndrome

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1996 Aug;175(2):460-4. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(96)70162-x.


Objective: Our purpose was to compare the maternal outcome of pregnancies complicated by HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets) syndrome, partial HELLP syndrome, or severe preeclampsia.

Study design: In a retrospective cohort study we reviewed the maternal charts of 316 women with HELLP syndrome or severe preeclampsia managed at our perinatal center between July 1, 1992, and June 30, 1995. HELLP syndrome was strictly defined by previously published laboratory criteria. Women were divided into three groups: HELLP syndrome (n = 67), partial HELLP syndrome (one or two but not all three features of HELLP syndrome, n = 71), and severe preeclampsia (no features of HELLP syndrome, n = 178). Results were compared by chi 2 analysis and one-way analysis of variance.

Results: Mean gestational ages at delivery in the HELLP, partial HELLP, and severe preeclampsia groups were, respectively, 31.7, 32.7, and 34.5 weeks (p < 0.001 between HELLP and severe preeclampsia). There was one maternal death from intracerebral hemorrhage in the HELLP group. In women with HELLP syndrome there was a higher incidence of cesarean section (p < 0.05), disseminated intravascular coagulation (p < 0.001), and need for transfusion (p < 0.001) than in the other two groups.

Conclusions: Higher incidences of maternal complications in women with HELLP syndrome stress the importance of strict criteria for the definition of HELLP syndrome. Women with partial HELLP syndrome should be studied and managed separately from women with complete HELLP syndrome.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • HELLP Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pre-Eclampsia / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Retrospective Studies