HELLP syndrome and hemolytic uremic syndrome during pregnancy: two disease entities, same causation. Case report and literature review



Thrombotic microangiopathies (TMA) are a group of diseases that can complicate pregnancy and threaten the lives of both the mother and the fetus. Several conditions can lead to TMA, including thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), HELLP syndrome and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). We describe the case of a 39-year-old woman who presented a HELLP syndrome in the immediate postpartum period. The patient had acute kidney injury (AKI), increased LDH, unmeasurable haptoglobin levels and hypocomplementemia. Her ADAMTS13 value was normal, thus ruling out TTP. Shiga toxin tests were negative, so HUS associated with E. coli was also ruled out. HELLP syndrome and atypical hemolytic-uremic syndrome (aHUS) remained the most probable diagnosis. In the days following childbirth, the patient’s transaminase and bilirubin levels normalized while the anemia persisted, as did the AKI, resulting in the institution of dialysis treatment. A diagnosis of aHUS was made and therapy with eculizumab was started. The patient’s blood counts progressively improved, urine output was restored, her indices of renal function also concomitantly improved and dialysis was interrupted. A rash appeared after the third administration of eculizumab and the treatment was suspended. The patient is currently being followed up and has not relapsed. At thirteen months after delivery her renal function is normal as are her platelet counts, LDH, haptoglobin levels and proteinuria. Tests for mutations in the genes that regulate complement activity were negative. We believe that childbirth triggered the HELLP syndrome, which in turn brought about and sustained the HUS. In fact, the patient’s liver function improved right after delivery, while her kidney injury and hemolysis persisted, and she also had an excellent response to eculizumab. To our knowledge, no other cases of HELLP syndrome associated with haemolytic uremic syndrome during pregnancy have been reported in literature, nor have cases in which treatment with eculizumab was limited to only three administrations.

Keywords: HELLP syndrome, hemolytic uremic syndrome, pregnancy, eculizumab, thrombotic microangiopathy

Sorry, this entry is only available in Italian.


Le microangiopatie trombotiche (MAT) rappresentano un eterogeneo gruppo di affezioni che possono complicare la gravidanza mettendo a rischio la vita della madre e del feto. Tra di esse troviamo la porpora trombotica trombocitopenica (PTT), la sindrome HELLP e la sindrome emolitica uremica (SEU), tutte caratterizzate da un danno a carico delle cellule endoteliali e trombosi dei piccoli vasi che si manifestano clinicamente con anemia emolitica, trombocitopenia, e danno d’organo [13]. I confini tra queste patologie non sono ben definiti tanto che può essere difficile o addirittura impossibile una diagnosi differenziale, considerando poi che dette condizioni possono coesistere [48]. A complicare ulteriormente l’iter diagnostico, durante la gravidanza i parametri ematologici [9], della proteinuria [10] e della concentrazione del complemento hanno range di riferimento differenti rispetto al soggetto non in gravidanza [11-12]. 

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