Asymmetric cerebral edema presenting with severe neurologic impairment and seizures after cardiac and thoracic interventions

Ibrahim Migdady, Alexander Rae-Grant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: A syndrome of focal neurologic deficits with characteristic imaging features, acute encephalopathy, and seizures after cardiac and thoracic interventions has been previously briefly reported in the literature. In a retrospective observational study, we aim to identify the prevalence and characteristics of this syndrome, in addition to discussing the possible underlying pathophysiology. Methods: In a retrospective study, we reviewed records of consecutive adult patients (≥18 years old) who underwent cardiac and thoracic procedures at a single institution between September 2014 to September 2019 and found to have evidence of focal cerebral edema following their procedure. We included and reported clinical course of patients who developed post-operative neurologic dysfunction and underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showing (1) asymmetric cerebral edema with (2) cortical diffusion restriction and (3) T2 cortical or subcortical hyperintensity and (4) no proximal vascular occlusion. Results: Three out of 107 patients (2.8%) met our inclusion criteria. These represented one male and two females with age at presentation of 63, 81 and 69, respectively. All patients developed severe neurologic impairment on the same day following their procedure (sternotomy with valve or bypass surgery in 2 patients; esophageal dilatation procedure in 1 patient). All patients underwent MRI of the brain and vessel imaging qualifying our inclusion criteria. Two patients improved neurologically prior to discharge, and one patient expired after family elected to withdraw care. Conclusion: We present a series of cases with a rare syndrome after cardiac and thoracic interventions. Although the exact mechanism of this syndrome remains unclear, we believe it to be related to relative cerebral hyperperfusion and cerebral dysautoregulation following anesthesia and thoracic manipulation. Future studies should focus on understanding the true prevalence and pathophysiology of this syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105003
JournalJournal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • Cerebral edema
  • Cerebral hyperperfusion
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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