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Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome in the puerperium: a case report
  1. Louise Dunphy,
  2. Trusha Kothari and
  3. Jonathan Ford
  1. Obstetrics, Leighton Hospital, Crewe, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Louise Dunphy; Louise.Dunphy{at}


Headache is a common presentation to the physician. Although most causes of a headache in pregnancy are benign, the pregnant woman is at risk of a life-threatening secondary headache such as eclampsia, venous sinus thrombosis or posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES). Pregnancy and the puerperium are prothrombotic risk factors. Although the aetiology of PRES remains to be fully elucidated, hypertension with failed autoregulation results in brain oedema. An alternative hypothesis includes endothelial injury and hypoperfusion leading to an alteration in the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. It occurs in complex, systemic conditions such as pre-eclampsia, following bone marrow transplantation, chemotherapy, sepsis and autoimmune diseases. The most common clinical presentation is headache, altered alertness, seizures and visual disturbance such as hemianopia, visual neglect and cortical blindness. It can also develop in normotensive individuals. Symmetric vasogenic oedema in a watershed distribution involving the parieto-occipital regions are typically evident on MRI. Management is determined by the underlying aetiological risk factor. The authors present the case of a 32-year-old multiparous woman presenting with tonic-clonic seizures 16 days following an elective caesarean section. Her pregnancy was complicated by hypertension and headache. There was no history of pre-eclampsia. She required intubation and ventilation. The diagnosis of PRES was established on MRI. Early recognition and treatment provide a favourable prognosis as the clinical symptoms and imaging characteristics are reversible in a large cohort of affected individuals.

  • obstetrics and gynaecology
  • neurology
  • emergency medicine

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  • Contributors LD: wrote the case report. TK: literature review. JF: final editing and approval.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Case reports provide a valuable learning resource for the scientific community and can indicate areas of interest for future research. They should not be used in isolation to guide treatment choices or public health policy.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.