Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome (PRES)
Emergency medicine residents of all levels
Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) is a clinically significant cause of seizures, headache, neurologic deficit, and hypertensive emergency that is not uncommon in the emergency department. Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome was initially described as a clinical syndrome in 1996.1 It is an important cause of hypertensive emergency that is not often covered in depth in the emergency medicine curriculum since the true incidence and disease process continues to be researched.
Populations who are at most risk for PRES include those with chronic hypertension, chronic renal disease, autoimmune disease, and immune suppression.2 Patients with PRES will often present with varied forms of encephalopathy and sometimes even focal neurologic symptoms that would suggest a cerebral vascular accident. These neurologic symptoms can include visual complaints and headache. Seizures are also frequently reported in association with PRES.3,9
Early identification and appropriate management of PRES decreases morbidity and mortality without chronic neurologic sequelae. The pillars of diagnosis and management can be initiated in the emergency department. This includes a diagnosis made by a thorough history and physical exam and cerebral imaging.4 The mainstay of management is parenteral anti-hypertensives with proper blood pressure monitoring.5
By the end of the simulation, the learner will be able to: 1) manage an acute seizure 2) discuss imaging modalities to diagnose PRES 3) discuss medical management of PRES.
This simulation exercise is meant to be presented as a traditional medium-to-high-fidelity medical simulation case. With minor adjustments, it could be utilized as a low-fidelity case or an oral exam case.
The educational content and general usefulness of this simulation was evaluated by open verbal (qualitative) feedback from a convenience sample of random participants following a completion of the case and debriefing by a participant group (n=30) of emergency medicine residents at a large 3-year residency training program.
The overall feedback was positive. Participants felt that it was a good opportunity to practice identifying PRES and managing it in a safe learning environment. They especially appreciated learning more about the pathophysiology of PRES, the high-risk factors for PRES, and management of the condition.
Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, an uncommon condition, presents similar to many other benign and common complaints. It is crucial to be able to differentiate PRES from other causes of headache, visual disturbance, and seizures. It is important to keep PRES in mind when considering hypertensive emergencies. Many PGY-1 residents struggled to diagnose and treat PRES because it was often not on their differential, and this case helped broaden their differential. PGY-2 and PGY-3 were more frequently able to appropriately diagnose and treat PRES in this patient but found the case to be helpful in their decision-making and learning more about PRES pathophysiology. This case and associated high-yield debriefing session were effective for learners of all levels.
Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES), altered mental status, seizure, headache, hypertensive emergency.