Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES): presentation, diagnosis and treatment

Postgrad Med J. 2020 Oct;96(1140):623-628. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2020-137706. Epub 2020 May 28.


Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) is a neurological disorder which is characterised by variable symptoms, which include visual disturbances, headache, vomiting, seizures and altered consciousness. The exact pathophysiology of PRES has not been completely explained, but hypertension and endothelial injury seem to be almost always present. Vasoconstriction resulting in vasogenic and cytotoxic edema is suspected to be responsible for the clinical symptoms as well as the neuro-radiological presentation. On imaging studies, Symmetrical white matter abnormalities suggestive of edema are seen in the computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, commonly but not exclusively in the posterior parieto-occipital regions of the cerebral hemispheres. The management is chiefly concerned with stabilization of the patient, adequate and prompt control of blood pressure, prevention of seizures and timely caesarean section in obstetric cases with pre-eclampsia/eclampsia. In conclusion, persistently elevated blood pressures remain the chief culprit for the clinical symptoms as well as the neurological deficits. Early diagnosis by diffusion weighted MRI scans, and differentiation from other causes of altered sensorium i.e. seizures, meningitis and psychosis, is extremely important to initiate treatment and prevent further complications. Although most cases resolve successfully and carry a favorable prognosis, patients with inadequate therapeutic support or delay in treatment may not project a positive outcome.

Keywords: neurology; obstetrics; physiology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain Edema / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Edema / physiopathology
  • Cesarean Section
  • Eclampsia / physiopathology
  • Eclampsia / therapy
  • Endothelium / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Posterior Leukoencephalopathy Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Posterior Leukoencephalopathy Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Posterior Leukoencephalopathy Syndrome / therapy*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / physiopathology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Seizures / drug therapy*
  • Seizures / prevention & control
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antihypertensive Agents