Severe pre-eclamptic women with headache: Is posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome an associated concurrent finding?

An Shine Chao*, Yao Liang Chen, Yao Lung Chang, Angel Chao, Seng Yuan Su, Tzu Hao Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: A high incidence of posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) has been observed in women with eclampsia on imaging. However this association was documented mostly after convulsions occurred. This study aimed to detect the development of PRES using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in women with severe preeclampsia and headache, and evaluate the clinical and radiological findings in obstetric outcomes. Methods: A prospective single-center cohort study comprising 20 pregnant women with severe pre-eclampsia related headache was conducted using Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) score of ≧4. Additionally, non-contrast brain MRI was used to detect PRES and related radiological central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities. Results: Patients were enrolled at a mean gestational age of 32 weeks (range 29-38 weeks). Two women were unable to complete the scanning. Of the 18 MRI scans, 15 (83%) revealed abnormal findings. One patient developed an altered mental state and diffuse PRES, with the occipital, temporal, thalamus, and basal ganglia, the brain stem, and the cerebellum being affected. Two patients had abnormal susceptibility-weighted imaging (SWI) findings, indicating micro-hemorrhages. The majority (12 cases, 66%) of the patients had abnormal cortical hyperintensities in the occipital and temporal lobes. Only three patients had normal MRI pictures. None of the women had eclampsia occurred during the peripartum period, and only one unrelated neonatal death due to congenital anomalies. Conclusion: A high incidence of abnormal cortical hyperintensity changes at locations typical for PRES on MRI was noted in women with severe pre-eclampsia and headache. These early hypertensive neurological signs allowed prompt and efficient obstetrical management, to prevent the development of eclampsia and PRES.

Original languageEnglish
Article number336
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
StatePublished - 01 06 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Neuroimaging
  • Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES)
  • Severe pre-eclampsia


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