Background: Reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome (RPLS) and hypertensive encephalopathy (HE) are terms generally used interchangeably to describe a syndrome characterized by encephalopathy, focal deficits, and vasogenic edema seen on magnetic resonance imaging, which are potentially reversible with treatment. The underlying pathologic changes are less well defined. Previously, the only pathologic data available came from a single autopsy series. Results from a recent biopsy report differ with the autopsy series leading to the suggestion that RPLS and HE may be distinct.
Case report: We report a markedly hypertensive patient with encephalopathy and hemiparesis and focal edema in the brainstem visualized on magnetic resonance imaging. A biopsy was performed that demonstrated pathologic changes associated with RPLS. With treatment of hypertension, the patient's symptoms resolved completely.
Conclusions: We report an unusual brainstem variant of RPLS, adding to the neuropathologic features of this syndrome, and supporting the predominant view that RPLS and HE have a shared pathologic basis.