Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome: incidence of atypical regions of involvement and imaging findings

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2007 Oct;189(4):904-12. doi: 10.2214/AJR.07.2024.


Objective: Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) is classically characterized as symmetric parietooccipital edema but may occur in other distributions with varying imaging appearances. This study determines the incidence of atypical and typical regions of involvement and unusual imaging manifestations.

Materials and methods: Seventy-six patients were eventually included as having confirmed PRES from 111 initially suspected cases, per imaging and clinical follow-up. Two neuroradiologists retrospectively reviewed each MR image. Standard sequences were unenhanced FLAIR and T1- and T2-weighted images in all patients, with diffusion-weighted imaging (n = 75) and contrast-enhanced T1-weighted imaging (n = 69) in most. The regions involved were recorded on the basis of FLAIR findings, and the presence of atypical imaging findings (contrast enhancement, restricted diffusion, hemorrhage) was correlated with the severity (extent) of hyperintensity or mass effect on FLAIR.

Results: The incidence of regions of involvement was parietooccipital, 98.7%; posterior frontal, 78.9%; temporal, 68.4%; thalamus, 30.3%; cerebellum, 34.2%; brainstem, 18.4%; and basal ganglia, 11.8%. The incidence of less common manifestations was enhancement, 37.7%; restricted diffusion, 17.3%; hemorrhage, 17.1%; and a newly described unilateral variant, 2.6%. Poor correlation was found between edema severity and enhancement (r = 0.072), restricted diffusion (r = 0.271), hemorrhage (r = 0.267), blood pressure (systolic, r = 0.13; diastolic, r = 0.02). Potentially new PRES causes included contrast-related anaphylaxis and alcohol withdrawal.

Conclusion: This large series of PRES cases shows that atypical distributions and imaging manifestations of PRES have a higher incidence than commonly perceived, and atypical manifestations do not correlate well with the edema severity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Edema / epidemiology*
  • Brain Edema / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Syndrome