Acute neurogenic pulmonary edema: case reports and literature review.

Abstract

Neurogenic pulmonary edema (NPE) is an underdiagnosed clinical entity. Its pathophysiology is multifactorial but largely unknown. We report two cases of NPE and review the literature on NPE cases reported since 1990. A 21-year-old man had a seizure episode following cranioplasty. He became increasingly dyspneic, and clinical and laboratory signs of respiratory failure were evident. Chest radiography and computed tomography showed bilateral diffuse infiltrates. After supportive measures were taken, complete respiratory recovery occurred in 72 hours. A 52-year-old woman had several seizure episodes following subarachnoid hemorrhage due to a cavernoma. She became increasingly dyspneic upon arrival at the hospital. After tracheostomy and oxygen support were established, chest radiography showed bilateral diffuse infiltrates. Respiratory recovery was excellent, and the patient was eupneic with normal results of chest radiography 48 hours later. Fourteen reports (21 cases) were found. Thirteen patients were female, and the mean age of the patients was 31.6 years. The most frequent underlying factor was subarachnoid hemorrhage (42.9%). Symptom onset occurred <4 hours after the neurologic event in 71.4% of cases. One third of the patients presented with pink frothy sputum. Chest radiography showed bilateral diffuse infiltrates in 90.5% of cases. Supportive measures included oxygen support and vasoactive drugs. Recovery was usually very rapid: 52.4% of patients recovered in <72 hours. Almost 10% of patients died of NPE. Our two cases had clinical and laboratory features in common with most NPE cases. Physicians should remember NPE when neurologic patients suddenly become dyspneic. The mortality rate is high, but surviving patients usually recover very quickly.

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