Blindness associated with preeclampsia and eclampsia

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 Apr;172(4 Pt 1):1291-8. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(95)91495-1.


Objective: Over a 14-year period at Parkland Hospital, the clinical courses of 15 women with severe preeclampsia or eclampsia were further complicated by blindness. Our purpose is to describe their management and outcome, as well as to offer insight to the pathophysiologic characteristics of blindness complicating pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Study design: Prospective ascertainment of women with blindness and pregnancy-induced hypertension was done. These cases were managed according to the standardized preeclampsia-eclampsia regimen used at our hospital since 1955. Briefly, this regimen includes magnesium sulfate given intramuscularly to prevent or control seizures, hydralazine to lower dangerously elevated blood pressure, intravenous fluid restriction, and delivery.

Results: There were 15 women with blindness that persisted from 4 hours to 8 days; it subsequently resolved completely in all. Of the 13 women who underwent computed tomography, 8 had low-density areas localized predominantly in the occipital lobes. Five of these 13 subsequently underwent magnetic resonance imaging and 2 showed corresponding hyperintense lesions in the occipital areas.

Conclusions: On the basis of previously published experiences with computed tomography in women with eclampsia, as well as the experiences described here, we conclude that cortical blindness associated with preeclampsia-eclampsia results from petechial hemorrhages and focal edema in the occipital cortex. These lesions are likely stimulated by disparity in cerebral regional blood flow that is characterized by vasospasm and diminished flow primarily affecting the posterior circulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blindness / diagnosis
  • Blindness / etiology*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Eclampsia / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Occipital Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Occipital Lobe / pathology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed