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Upward Transtentorial Herniation, Hydrocephalus, and Cerebellar Edema in Hypertensive Encephalopathy: Case Report and Literature Review

Adamson, David C. MD, PhD, MPH*; Dimitrov, Dragan F. MD*; Bronec, Peter R. MD

doi: 10.1097/01.nrl.0000159982.63592.9f
Original Article

Background: Edema of the cerebellum with secondary obstructive hydrocephalus is a rare presentation of hypertensive encephalopathy. The authors report an unusual case of isolated posterior fossa swelling with upward transtentorial herniation and hydrocephalus causing neurologic deterioration. These patients are often initially evaluated by a neurologist because of the acute neurologic symptoms. Prompt diagnosis with aggressive blood pressure control may obviate the need for emergent cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) diversion.

Review Summary: This is a case report of a 26-year-old man who presented to the emergency room with confusion and somnolence over a 2-day period. His initial blood pressure was 175/110 mmHg. On examination he was disoriented, with a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 12 points, opening his eyes only to loud verbal stimuli, verbalizing inappropriately, and he was only able to follow simple commands. Neuroimaging revealed edema of the cerebellar folia with noncommunicating hydrocephalus and upward transtentorial herniation. Differential diagnoses of posterior fossa tumor, rhombencephalitis, and hypertensive encephalopathy were entertained. A thorough literature review is included with the discussion of this case. The patient underwent emergent ventriculostomy for CSF drainage and prompt blood pressure control with nitroprusside. After 48 hours of CSF drainage and correction of his hypertension, his neurologic examination normalized. Repeat imaging revealed near resolution of the obstructive hydrocephalus and cerebellar edema.

Conclusion: Isolated edema of the cerebellum with upward transtentorial herniation and obstructive hydrocephalus is a rare presentation of hypertensive encephalopathy and should be considered in patients with an acute hypertensive crisis and mental status changes. This entity responds to prompt blood pressure control; however, emergent ventriculostomy by a neurosurgical team should be entertained for neurologic deterioration secondary to significant obstructive hydrocephalus, as illustrated in this case.

From the *Division of Neurosurgery and †Durham County Regional Hospital, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

Reprints: David C. Adamson, MD, Division of Neurosurgery, Duke University Medical Center, Box 3807, Durham, NC 27710. E-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.