OBJECTIVE: To assess the distribution of cerebral white matter lesions in women who had eclampsia, preeclampsia, or normotensive pregnancies. The pathophysiology of these lesions, more often seen in formerly eclamptic and preeclamptic women, is unclear but may be related to a predisposition for vascular disease, the occurrence of the posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, or both while pregnant. Assessing the distribution of such lesions may give insight into their pathophysiology and possible consequences.
METHODS: This retrospective cohort study determined the presence, severity, and location of white matter lesions on cerebral magnetic resonance imaging scans of 64 formerly eclamptic, 74 formerly preeclamptic, and 75 parous control women.
RESULTS: Formerly preeclamptic and eclamptic women have white matter lesions more often (34.4% [n=47] compared with 21.3% [n=16]; P<.05) and more severely (0.07 compared with 0.02 mL; P<.05) than parous women in a control group. In all women, the majority of lesions was located in the frontal lobes followed by the parietal, insular, and temporal lobes.
CONCLUSION: White matter lesions are more common in women with prior pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia or eclampsia compared with parous women in a control group. In no group does regional white matter lesion distribution correspond to the occipitoparietal edema distribution seen in posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome.