Abdominal Pain and Preeclampsia: Sonographic Findings in the Maternal Liver

Bruno Suarez, MD ; Karine Alves, MD ; Marie Victoire Senat, MD ; Jerome Fromageot, MD ; Catherine Fischer, MD ;, Patrick Rosenberg, MD ; Yves Ville, MD

Department of Obstetrics (B.S., K.A., M.V.S., J.F., P.R., Y.V.) and Intensive Care Unit (C.F.). Hôpital de Poissy, Poissy, France. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Bruno Suarez, Department of Obstetrics, Hôpital de Poissy, 10 rue du Champ Gaillard, 78 300 Poissy, France.

OBJECTIVE: To describe sonographic findings in livers of pregnant women with severe preeclampsia and abdominal pain.

METHODS: Over a 12-month period, we performed serial sonographic examinations on 32 pregnant women with severe preeclampsia and acute right upper quadrant and epigastric pain. On each sonogram we observed the liver size and texture, “periportal halo” sign, gallbladder wall, Glisson capsule thickness, painful compression of the liver and gallbladder, and ascites. The pancreas, spleen, kidneys, and uterus were also studied. Sonography was repeated after delivery.

RESULTS: Initial sonograms showed liver abnormalities in 28 patients. Abnormalities consisted of liver hypertrophy (n = 24), hyperechoic thickening of the periportal area (periportal halo sign; n = 23), striated thickening of the gallbladder wall (n = 27), hyperechoic thickening of the Glisson capsule (n = 11), liver areas of increased echogenicity (n = 11), subcapsular hematoma (n = 1), and subcapsular calcification (n = 1). Probe compression of the liver enhanced abdominal pain (n = 13), whereas the gallbladder was painless in all cases. No gallbladder stones were detected. Ascites (n = 16) and pleural effusion (n = 11) were also present. In no case did we detect abnormalities of the pancreas, kidneys, or spleen. All patients eventually had hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count (HELLP) syndrome according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists classification. In 7 cases, HELLP syndrome developed postpartum. Three patients also had eclampsia. Follow-up sonograms highlighted quick regression of abnormalities after delivery.