Reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Jun;35(6):396-402. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2006.01.002.


Background: The development of central nervous system (CNS) symptoms in patients with preexisting systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) evokes a wide differential diagnosis. Reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy (RPLE) is a rapidly evolving neurologic syndrome with characteristic clinical and radiographic features. Conditions commonly associated with RPLE include hypertensive encephalopathy, eclampsia, immunosuppressive drugs, and inflammatory disorders.

Objectives: To describe our experience with RPLE in patients with concomitant SLE and review the literature.

Methods: The details of 5 novel cases and a MEDLINE review of the literature concerning the development of RPLE in association with SLE are presented.

Results: All cases included patients with SLE who developed the acute onset of headache, altered mental status, visual changes, and seizures. Neuroimaging demonstrated posterior white matter edema involving the parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes. Complete clinical and radiographic recovery occurred with prompt antihypertensive treatment and supportive care. Literature review identified 16 additional cases of RPLE occurring in patients with active SLE; the majority of these reports was similar in presentation and outcome to our experience.

Conclusions: It is likely that the clinical manifestations and neuroimages in these lupus patients were the result of the RPLE syndrome. Fortunately, this cause of "secondary" CNS symptoms in patients with SLE is readily reversible when diagnosed early and treated with blood pressure control and supportive care.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain Edema / etiology*
  • Brain Edema / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertensive Encephalopathy / drug therapy
  • Hypertensive Encephalopathy / etiology*
  • Hypertensive Encephalopathy / immunology
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / diagnosis
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / etiology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Lupus Nephritis / immunology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Antihypertensive Agents