Cerebral edema (summary)

Dr Craig Hacking and Dr Jeremy Jones et al.
This is a basic article for medical students and other non-radiologists

Cerebral edema describes the collection of additional fluid within the white matter of the brain. It is the brain's response to an insult and may take one of two broad forms: vasogenic (white matter) and cytotoxic (grey and white matter) edema.

Reference article

This is a summary article; read more in our article on cerebral edema.

  • pathophysiology
    • edema within the brain parenchyma (white and/or grey matter)
      • the result of a brain insult (ischemia/infarction, infection, tumor etc)
    • two main types of cerebral edema
      • cytotoxic
        • affects white and grey matter
        • blurring of the grey-white junction
        • usually the result of ischemia and/or infarction
      • vasogenic
        • affects white matter only
        • surrounds a mass, i.e. usually an abscess or a tumor
    • periventricular edema occurs secondary to acute hydrocephalus as CSF pressure builds and seeps into the periventricular white matter

CT head | MRI brain

  • role of imaging
    • confirm the presence of edema
    • determine the likely underlying cause
    • determine whether there is sequela from any mass effect
  • radiographic features
    • compression and displacement of adjacent structures
    • change in parencymal density (CT) and signal (MRI)
      • reduced density (attenuation) on CT
      • high-signal on T2-weighted sequences (MRI)
      • low-signal on T1-weighted sequences (MRI)
Medical student radiology curriculum
Share article

Article information

rID: 55164
Section: Approach
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

Support Radiopaedia and see fewer ads

Cases and figures

  • Vasogenic edema (breast cancer metastasis)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Cytotoxic edema (left MCA stroke)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Vasogenic edema (renal cell cancer metastasis)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Hydrocephalus with periventricular edema
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.

     Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

     Thank you for updating your details.