OBJECTIVE: HELLP syndrome is a severe form of preeclampsia, characterized by hemolysis (H), elevated liver enzymes (EL), and low platelets (LP), whose pathogenesis is unclear. Autoimmunity is thought to play an important role. After the observation of development of type 1 diabetes in a patient with HELLP syndrome, we assumed a possible disease association based on autoimmune reactions. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We examined 70 women with HELLP syndrome for the presence of autoimmune markers and glucose intolerance. Free thyroxine, triiodothyronine, thyroid-stimulating hormone, anti-thyroglobulin antibodies, thyroperoxidase antibodies, thyrotropin receptor antibodies, antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) and anti-DNA, islet cell antibodies, GADA, an oral glucose tolerance test, and HbA1c were determined postpartum. Patients with positive autoimmune markers or glucose intolerance were prospectively followed and repeated testing was performed. There were 60 women with a normal course of pregnancy matched for age, BMI, and number of pregnancies, which served as a control group. RESULTS: From the HELLP patients, 22 (31%) compared with only 6 (10%) control subjects had autoimmune antibodies (P < 0.01). There were 16 HELLP patients (23%) who exhibited only 1 kind of autoantibody (5 ANA, 9 thyroid antibodies, and 2 GADA), whereas in 6 HELLP patients (8.5%) 2 different antibodies were found. In all but 4 patients of the study group, these antibodies disappeared during 3 +/- 1.5 years of follow-up. Glucose intolerance was detected in 22 (31%) of the HELLP patients, 17 of them had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), and 5 had diabetes, whereas only 4 subjects (6.5%) with IGT at postpartum were found in the control group (P < 0.01). During the follow-up, 2 HELLP patients were still diabetic and another 2 HELLP patients (1 GADA positive) had IGT versus 1 control subject. CONCLUSIONS: Our data give evidence that HELLP syndrome is associated with various autoimmune antibodies and glucose intolerance. Because glucose intolerance and/or autoimmune markers persisted during long-term follow-up in 6 patients with HELLP syndrome versus 1 in the control group, it may become advisable to reexamine patients with HELLP syndrome for detection of diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

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