Hypertensive encephalopathy: findings on CT, MR imaging, and SPECT imaging in 14 cases

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1992 Aug;159(2):379-83. doi: 10.2214/ajr.159.2.1632361.


Hypertensive encephalopathy is a syndrome consisting of headache, seizures, visual changes, and other neurologic disturbances in patients with elevated systemic blood pressure. The purpose of this study was to analyze the imaging findings in 14 patients with hypertensive encephalopathy. CT (n = 13), MR (n = 12), and single-photon emission computed tomography (n = 2) examinations performed in these patients before and after resolution of symptoms were reviewed. Eight had the preeclampsia-eclampsia syndrome, and six had hypertensive encephalopathy due to other causes. CT and MR findings in all patients having these examinations were indicative of edema in the cortex and subcortical white matter in the occipital lobes. Two of the 14 patients also had similar findings in the cerebellum and frontal lobes. Single-photon emission computed tomography showed increased vascular perfusion adjacent to areas that appeared abnormal on CT and MR. The findings on the imaging studies resolved on follow-up examinations performed after the hypertension was corrected. Our results suggest that the radiologic findings associated with hypertensive encephalopathy may be useful in establishing the diagnosis in the appropriate clinical setting.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Brain Diseases / etiology
  • Eclampsia / complications
  • Female
  • Headache* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications*
  • Image Enhancement
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Seizures* / etiology
  • Syndrome
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*