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Open Access Case report

Potential of essential fatty acid deficiency with extremely low fat diet in lipoprotein lipase deficiency during pregnancy: A case report

Elaine C Tsai12*, Judy A Brown1, Megan Y Veldee1, Gregory J Anderson3, Alan Chait1 and John D Brunzell1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

2 Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, 1660 S. Columbian Way (152E), Seattle, Washington, USA

3 Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon, USA

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2004, 4:27  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-4-27

Published: 20 December 2004

Abstract

Background

Pregnancy in patients with lipoprotein lipase deficiency is associated with high risk of maternal pancreatitis and fetal death. A very low fat diet (< 10% of calories) is the primary treatment modality for the prevention of acute pancreatitis, a rare but potentially serious complication of severe hypertriglyceridemia. Since pregnancy can exacerbate hypertriglyceridemia in the genetic absence of lipoprotein lipase, a further reduction of dietary fat intake to < 1–2% of total caloric intake may be required during the pregnancy, along with the administration of a fibrate. It is uncertain if essential fatty acid deficiency will develop in the mother and fetus with this extremely low fat diet, or whether fibrates will cross the placenta and concentrate in the fetus.

Case presentation

A 23 year-old gravida 1 woman with primary lipoprotein lipase deficiency was seen at 7 weeks of gestation in the Lipid Clinic for management of severe hypertriglyceridemia that had worsened with pregnancy. While on her habitual fat intake of 10% of total calories, her pregnancy resulted in an exacerbation of the hypertriglyceridemia, which prompted further restriction of fat intake to < 2% of total calories, as well as administration of gemfibrozil at a lower than average dose. The level of gemfibrozil, as the active metabolite, in the venous and arterial fetal cord blood was within the expected therapeutic range for adults. The clinical signs and a biomarker of essential fatty acid deficiency, namely the ratio of 20:3 [n-9] to 20:4 [n-6] fatty acids, were closely monitored throughout her pregnancy. Despite her extremely low fat diet, the levels of essential fatty acids measured in the mother and in the fetal blood immediately postpartum were normal. Normal essential fatty acid levels may have been achieved by the topical application of sunflower oil.

Conclusions

An extremely low fat diet in combination with topical sunflower oil and gemfibrozil administration was safely implemented in pregnancy associated with the severe hypertriglyceridemia of lipoprotein lipase deficiency.