Fulminant hepatic failure in pregnant women: Acute fatty liver or acute vital hepatitis?

Saeed S. Hamid, S. M.Wasim Jafri, Haleem Khan, Hasnain Shah, Zaigham Abbas, Howard Fields

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124 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Hepatitis E virus, which is endemic in our region, can cause severe liver dysfunction in pregnant women and this can be clinically confused with acute fatty liver of pregnancy. Methods: We studied the clinical and laboratory data as well as the maternal and fetal outcomes of 12 pregnant women presenting with fulminant hepatic failure in order to determine the etiology of the disease. The clinical diagnoses were subsequently correlated with serologic assays for acute HEV infection. All patients were severely ill with deep jaundice, grade 3-4 encephalopathy and abnormal prothrombin times. Results: A clinical diagnosis of acute viral hepatitis was made in nine patients and of acute fatty liver in the other three cases. IgM and IgG antibodies confirmed acute viral hepatitis E in six of the nine patients while one had acute hepatitis A infection. HEV IgM and IgG antibodies were, however, also positive in two of the three patients thought to have acute fatty liver. Maternal and fetal mortality were 16.6 % and 50%, respectively. Conclusions: We conclude that hepatitis E is the usual cause of acute liver failure in our pregnant women and that clinical and laboratory features do not permit accurate distinction between acute HEV infection and acute fatty liver of pregnancy. The prognosis in patients with acute HEV infection is much better than in other groups with severe liver failure (mortality 16% vs 68%).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1996


  • Acute fatty liver
  • Fulminant hepatic failure
  • Hepatitis E
  • Pregnancy


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