A 19-year-old female presented at 25-weeks gestation with pancreatitis. She was found to have significant hypertriglyceridaemia in context of an unconfirmed history of familial hypertriglyceridaemia. This was initially managed with fasting and insulin infusion and she was commenced on conventional interventions to lower triglycerides, including a fat-restricted diet, heparin, marine oil and gemfibrozil. Despite these measures, the triglyceride levels continued to increase as she progressed through the pregnancy, and it was postulated that she had an underlying lipoprotein lipase defect. Therefore, a multidisciplinary decision was made to commence therapeutic plasma exchange to prevent further episodes of pancreatitis. She underwent a total of 13 sessions of plasma exchange, and labour was induced at 37-weeks gestation in which a healthy female infant was delivered. There was a rapid and significant reduction in triglycerides in the 48 h post-delivery. Subsequent genetic testing of hypertriglyceridaemia genes revealed a missense mutation of the LPL gene. Fenofibrate and rosuvastatin was commenced to manage her hypertriglyceridaemia postpartum and the importance of preconception counselling for future pregnancies was discussed. Hormonal changes in pregnancy lead to an overall increase in plasma lipids to ensure adequate nutrient delivery to the fetus. These physiological changes become problematic, where a genetic abnormality in lipid metabolism exists and severe complications such as pancreatitis can arise. Available therapies for gestational hypertriglyceridaemia rely on augmentation of LPL activity. Where there is an underlying LPL defect, these therapies are ineffective and removal of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins via plasma exchange should be considered.
- Hormonal changes in pregnancy, mediated by progesterone,oestrogen and human placental lactogen, lead to a two- to three-fold increase in serum triglyceride levels.
- Pharmacological intervention for management of gestational hypertriglyceridaemia rely on the augmentation of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity to enhance catabolism of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins.
- Genetic mutations affecting the LPL gene can lead to severe hypertriglyceridaemia.
- Therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) is an effective intervention for the management of severe gestational hypertriglyceridaemia and should be considered in cases where there is an underlying LPL defect.
- Preconception counselling and discussion regarding contraception is of paramount importance in women with familial hypertriglyceridaemia.