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Failure To Diagnose H.E.L.L.P. Syndrome Can Cause Preeclampsia Pregnancy Complications

Preeclampsia, also known as toxemia, is a condition that complicates as many as 10% of pregnancies. Typical symptoms during pregnancy and the immediate post-partum period include high blood pressure, protein in the urine (i.e., proteinuria), foot, leg and hand swelling (i.e., edema), nausea, severe headaches and abdominal pain.

A dangerous variant of preeclampsia is known as H.E.L.L.P. syndrome. A woman with H.E.L.L.P. syndrome may have a low platelet count and elevated liver enzymes. Women who suffer from H.E.L.L.P. syndrome may not exhibit the primary indicators for preeclampsia, such as high blood pressure and proteinuria. Because a pregnant woman with H.E.L.L.P. may not have symptoms that doctors typically look for, a woman suffering from preeclampsia may be misdiagnosed with the flu and treatment may be delayed.

Preeclampsia affects pregnant women everywhere, including in central New York. According to, in the weeks before she gave birth by cesarean section on August 1, 2011, Cato resident Kristie Rubino experienced several preeclampsia symptoms. She presented to St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center on July 28, 2011, but was discharged. Days later, she underwent an abdominal delivery performed under general anesthesia. Shortly thereafter, her blood pressure escalated and she passed away.

A failure to diagnose preeclampsia early can lead to life-threatening complications for a pregnant mother and her unborn baby. “The misdiagnosis of H.E.L.L.P. syndrome can be even more dangerous, because it has a 25% mortality rate,” said Michael A. Bottar, Esq., a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer. Significant labor and delivery complications include premature birth and, while rare, maternal death from problems such as seizures, cerebral hemorrhaging and stroke. The only “cure” for preeclampsia is delivery. While there is no “cure,” preeclampsia can be treated by monitoring maternal fluid intake and through the administration of magnesium for seizures and anti-hypertensive medication for elevated blood pressure.

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