Variable Presentations of Postpartum Angiopathy

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Abstract

Background and Purpose—

Postpartum angiopathy (PPA), a rare cause of stroke in the puerperium, is heralded by severe headaches within 1–2 weeks after delivery. Angiography demonstrates segmental vasoconstriction that often resolves spontaneously. PPA is generally regarded as benign. We aimed to define clinical presentations, radiological findings, and outcomes of patients with PPA.

Methods—

We retrospectively reviewed patients from 3 centers with acute neurological symptoms and angiography showing vasoconstriction in the postpartum period. Patients without neuroimaging and with diagnoses of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and aneurysmal hemorrhage were excluded. Patient characteristics, clinical symptoms, neuroimaging findings, and clinical condition at hospital discharge were collected.

Results—

Eighteen patients (mean age, 31 years; range, 15–41) were identified. Median gestation was 38 weeks. Twelve (67%) had a history of prior uneventful pregnancy. Neurological symptoms began on median day 5 postpartum and included headache (n=16, 89%), focal deficit (n=9, 50%), visual disturbance (n=8, 44%), encephalopathy (n=6, 33%), and seizure (n=5, 28%), often in combination. Brain imaging was abnormal in most (n=13, 72%). The most common abnormalities were intracranial hemorrhage (n=7, 39%), vasogenic edema (n=6, 35%), and infarction (n=6, 35%). Clinical outcomes were markedly variable with full recovery seen in 9 (50%), death after a fulminant course in 4 (22%), and residual deficits in 5 (28%).

Conclusions—

In contrast to prior reports, this group of patients with PPA had a higher proportion of nonbenign outcomes. Most patients who undergo neuroimaging have parenchymal abnormalities, which are most often stroke (hemorrhagic or ischemic) or reversible vasogenic edema.

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