Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice

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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 610-611  

Hypertension, headache, and posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome

Department of ENT, Whipps Cross University Hospital, London E11 1NR, UK

Date of Web Publication18-Aug-2016

Correspondence Address:
Hassan Mohammed
Department of ENT, Whipps Cross University Hospital, Whipps Cross Road, London E11 1NR
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0976-3147.186988

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How to cite this article:
Mohammed H. Hypertension, headache, and posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome. J Neurosci Rural Pract 2016;7:610-1

How to cite this URL:
Mohammed H. Hypertension, headache, and posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome. J Neurosci Rural Pract [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 May 22];7:610-1. Available from:

I read with great interest the article (Subarachnoid hemorrhage due to ruptured intracranial aneurysm following posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome - Case report)[1] reporting a case of subarachnoid hemorrhage in a patient who presented with posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES).

Neurological consequences of raised blood pressure are well-documented. However, it was not until 1996 that the term PRES was used to describe a specific pattern of symptoms and radiological findings that can be associated with hypertension.[2]

It is reported that accelerated increase in blood pressure is of significance in developing PRES.[3] However, in practice, it is not always clear from history or examination if such acceleration is present. In addition, time constraints do not allow for such trend to be observed. Moreover, blood pressure can be normal in patients with PRES.[4]

PRES symptoms include headache and vomiting. There are also visual changes, altered mental status, and focal neurologic signs. Seizures are also a feature of this syndrome.[5] Symptoms alone are not sufficient to make the diagnosis. Radiological findings of focal edema and the reversibility of presenting symptoms and radiological findings are a requirement of diagnosis.[6]

The preferred method of investigation in PRES is by amagnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.[6] However, in most acute departments, computed tomography (CT) scan with or without contrast is more readily available. CT can still show the radiological changes associated with PRES.[7]

The aim of radiological investigations when PRES is suspected should be to establish if the radiological characteristics are present. In addition, assessment of any acute intracranial pathology is important as is the demonstration of any abnormality which might indicate the need for more emergent and aggressive management. In this case report, the abnormality was an intracranial aneurysm which led eventually to subarachnoid hemorrhage.

This case report also emphasizes the significance of investigating acute headaches when associated with new-onset hypertension increased blood pressure even without focal neurological signs. However, it is not practical to perform a CT/MRI scan in every patient with headache and hypertension, in terms of both cost and safety. The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network produced guidelines of headache management; it recommends that only headache presenting as thunderclap and giant arthritis headaches need emergency investigations and management.[8] In the view of this case report, such approach does not seem to be sufficient.

Furthermore, from this report and a previous case report,[9] it seems that routine single-agent management of hypertension is not sufficient in all cases. It might be sensible to arrange for a short observational period to confirm that efficacy is recommended and might substitute the need for more aggressive scanning protocols.

To sum up, headache with new-onset increased blood pressure requires particular attention in terms of management, assessment of response to treatment, and keeping low threshold for radiological investigations. More research into developing a protocol to investigate patients with headache and hypertension presenting to the emergency department is required.

   References Top

Nanba TK, Saura H, Takeda M. Subarachnoid hemorrhage due to ruptured intracranial aneurysm following posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome – Case report. J Neurosci Rural Pract 2016;7:440-2.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Hinchey J, Chaves C, Appignani B, Breen J, Pao L, Wang A, et al. A reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome. N Engl J Med 1996;334:494-500.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kumai Y, Toyoda K, Fujii K, Ibayashi S. Hypertensive encephalopathy extending into the whole brainstem and deep structures. Hypertens Res 2002;25:797-800.  Back to cited text no. 3
Bartynski WS. Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, part 1: Fundamental imaging and clinical features. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 2008;29:1036-42.  Back to cited text no. 4
Merhemic Z, Milicic-Pokrajac D, Bajramovic A, Sulejmanpasic G. Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES). Med Arh 2009;63:55-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
Fugate JE, Claassen DO, Cloft HJ, Kallmes DF, Kozak OS, Rabinstein AA. Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome: Associated clinical and radiologic findings. Mayo Clin Proc 2010;85:427-32.  Back to cited text no. 6
Brewer J, Owens MY, Wallace K, Reeves AA, Morris R, Khan M, et al. Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome in 46 of 47 patients with eclampsia. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2013;208:468.e1-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
SIGN Diagnosis and Management of Headache in Adults; 2008. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Mar 26].  Back to cited text no. 8
Mohammed H, Briggs M, Phillips J. Pulsatile tinnitus as the presenting symptom in a patient with posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 2016;273:2847-51.  Back to cited text no. 9


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