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Potential Benefit of Plasma Exchange in Treatment of Severe Icteric Leptospirosis Complicated by Acute Renal Failure

  • Kai-Chung Tse
  • Pok-Siu Yip
  • King-Men Hui
  • Fu-Keung Li
  • Kwok-Yung Yuen
  • Kar-Neng Lai
  • Tak-Mao Chan
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2002
  • Medicine


Leptospirosis is a common zoonosis seen worldwide, but it is rare in our locality (Hong Kong). Clinical manifestations of leptospirosis are variable and may range from subclinical infection to fever, jaundice, hemorrhagic tendency, and fulminant hepato-renal failure. Severe hyperbilirubinemia and acute renal failure have been associated with high mortality. We report our experience with a patient who developed severe Weil's syndrome with marked conjugated hyperbilirubinemia and oliguric acute renal failure. These complications persisted despite treatment with penicillin and hemodiafiltration. Plasma exchange was instituted in view of the severe hyperbilirubinemia (970 μmol/liter). This was followed by prompt clinical improvement, with recovery of liver and renal function. The beneficial effects of plasma exchange could be attributed to amelioration of the toxic effects of hyperbilirubinemia on hepatocyte and renal tubular cell function. We conclude that plasma exchange should be considered as an adjunctive therapy for patients with severe icteric leptospirosis complicated by acute renal failure who have not shown rapid clinical response to conventional treatment.

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