Pregnancy is a special clinical state with several normal physiological changes that influence body organs including the liver. Liver disease can cause significant morbidity and mortality in both pregnant women and their infants. This review summarizes liver diseases that are unique topregnancy. We discuss clinical conditions that are seen only in pregnant women and involve the liver; from Hyperemesis Gravidarum that happens in 1 out of 200 pregnancies and Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (0.5%-1.5% prevalence), to the more frequent condition of preeclampsia (10% prevalence) and its severe form; hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and a low platelet count syndrome (12% of pregnancies with preeclampsia), to the rare entity of Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy (incidence of 1 per 7270 to 13000 deliveries). Although pathogeneses behind the development of these aliments are not fully understood, theories have been proposed. Some propose the special physiological changes that accompany pregnancy as a precipitant. Others suggest a constellation of factors including both the mother and her fetus that come together to trigger those unique conditions. Reaching a timely and accurate diagnosis of such conditions can be challenging. The timing of the condition in relation toward which trimester it starts at is a key. Accurate diagnosis can be made using specific clinical findings and blood tests. Some entities have well-defined criteria that help not only in making the diagnosis, but also in classifying the disease according to its severity. Management of these conditions range from simple medical remedies to measures such as immediate termination of the pregnancy. In specific conditions, it is prudent to have expert obstetric and medical specialists teaming up to help improve the outcomes.
KEYWORDS: Acute fatty liver; Eclampsia; Hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and a low platelet count; Hyperemesis gravidarum; Intrahepatic cholestasis;Liver; Preeclampsia; Pregnancy
Crit Care. 2011 Aug 12;15(4):227. doi: 10.1186/cc10256.
Critical illness is an uncommon but potentially devastating complication of pregnancy. The majority of pregnancy-related critical care admissions occur postpartum. Antenatally, the pregnant patient is more likely to be admitted with diseases non-specific to pregnancy, such as pneumonia.Pregnancy-specific diseases resulting in ICU admission include obstetric hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, HELLP (hemolysis, elevatedliver enzymes, and low platelet count) syndrome, amniotic fluid embolus syndrome, acute fatty liver of pregnancy, and peripartum cardiomyopathy. Alternatively, critical illness may result from pregnancy-induced worsening of pre-existing diseases (for example, valvular heart disease, myasthenia gravis, and kidney disease). Pregnancy can also predispose women to diseases seen in the non-pregnant population, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (for example, pneumonia and aspiration), sepsis (for example, chorioamnionitis and pyelonephritis) or pulmonary embolism. The pregnant patient may also develop conditions co-incidental to pregnancy such as trauma or appendicitis. Hemorrhage, particularly postpartum, and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy remain the most frequent indications for ICU admission. This review focuses onpregnancy-specific causes of critical illness. Management of the critically ill mother poses special challenges. The physiologic changes inpregnancy and the presence of a second, dependent, patient may necessitate adjustments to therapeutic and supportive strategies. The fetus is generally robust despite maternal illness, and therapeutically what is good for the mother is generally good for the fetus. For pregnancy-induced critical illnesses, delivery of the fetus helps resolve the disease process. Prognosis following pregnancy-related critical illness is generally better than for age-matched non-pregnant critically ill patients.
Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP), characterized by hepatic microvesicular steatosis, is a sudden catastrophic illness occurring almost exclusively in the third trimester of pregnancy. Defective fatty acid oxidation in the fetus has been shown to be associated with this disease. Since the placenta has the same genetic makeup as the fetus and as AFLP patients generally recover following delivery, we hypothesized that the placenta might be involved in pathogenesis of this disease. In an animal model of hepatic microvesicular steatosis (using sodium valproate), we found that microvesicular steatosis results in mitochondrial structural alterations and oxidative stress in subcellular organelles of the liver. In placentas from patients with AFLP, we observed placental mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress in subcellular organelles. In addition, defective placental fatty acid oxidation results in accumulation of toxic mediators such as arachidonic acid. Escape of these mediators into the maternal circulation might affect the maternal liver resulting in microvesicular steatosis.