Plasma exchange for preeclampsia: II. Unsuccessful antepartum utilization for severe preeclampsia with or without HELLP syndrome

J N Martin, K G Perry, W E Roberts, P F Norman, J C Files, P G Blake, J C Morrison, W L Wiser
Journal of Clinical Apheresis 1994, 9 (3): 155-61

OBJECTIVE: To explore the efficacy of plasmapheresis/plasma exchange as the primary therapy to arrest and reverse the progression of severe preeclampsia with or without HELLP syndrome in order to postpone delivery and improve perinatal outcome in very preterm pregnancies.

STUDY DESIGN: In this case series of patients managed over a 4-year period from 1984 to 1987, seven gravidas with severe preterm preeclampsia underwent 1-2 plasmaphereses/plasma exchange procedures using the IBM 2997 Cell Separator with continuous electronic fetal heart rate monitoring (n = 7 patients) and central cardiovascular monitoring (n = 3 patients).

RESULTS: The seven patients (one with HELLP syndrome, six without HELLP) presented between 24 and 30 weeks gestation and, despite plasmapheresis/plasma exchange, the severity of each study subject's preeclampsia persisted without clinically significant improvement. Maternal-fetal deterioration required cesarean delivery in all cases within 48 (in four patients within < 36) hours of therapy. No clinically significant adverse effect of plasma exchange therapy was recorded during cardiovascular and laboratory monitoring; two fetuses developed repetitive late decelerations during exchange despite adequate maternal fluid preload. The only patient with HELLP syndrome developed eclampsia as her third plasma exchange within 25 hours was being initiated. Significant problems with fluid retention and displacement (variable amounts of pulmonary edema, pleural effusions, large volume ascites) were encountered in all patients. Four neonates died (24-27 weeks/438-820 g) and three survived intact (740, 950, and 1,280 g). One mother (case 5) developed end-stage renal disease 21 months postpartum.

CONCLUSIONS: The application of plasmapheresis/plasma exchange therapy as described in order to prolong very preterm pregnancies in the undelivered patient with severe preeclampsia/eclampsia with or without HELLP syndrome did not produced encouraging results. Patients in general were exposed to additional medical and surgical risk without a corresponding improvement in perinatal outcome.

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