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Use of spiral computerized tomography angiography in patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage in whom subtraction angiography did not reveal cerebral aneurysms.

OBJECT: Patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) in whom angiography does not demonstrate diagnostic findings sometimes suffer recurrent disease and actually harbor undetected cerebral aneurysms. The management strategy for such cases remains controversial, but technological advances in spiral computerized tomography (CT) angiography are changing the picture. The purpose of this prospective study was to examine how spiral CT angiography can contribute to the detection of cerebral aneurysms that cannot be visualized on angiography.

METHODS: In 134 consecutive patients with SAH, a prospective search for the source of bleeding was performed using digital subtraction (DS) and spiral CT angiography. In 21 patients in whom initial DS angiography yielded no diagnostic findings, spiral CT angiography was performed within 3 days. Patients in whom CT angiography provided no diagnostic results underwent second and third DS angiography sessions after approximately 2 weeks and 6 months, respectively. Six patients with perimesencephalic SAH were included in the 21 cases. Six of the other 15 patients had small cerebral aneurysms detectable by spiral CT angiography, five involving the anterior communicating artery and one the middle cerebral artery. Two patients in whom initial angiograms did not demonstrate diagnostic findings proved to have a ruptured dissecting aneurysm of the vertebral artery; in one case this was revealed at autopsy and in the other during the second DS angiography session. A third DS angiography session revealed no diagnostic results in 13 patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Spiral CT angiography was useful in the detection of cerebral aneurysms in patients with SAH in whom angiography revealed no diagnostic findings. Anterior communicating artery aneurysms are generally well hidden in these types of SAH cases. A repeated angiography session was warranted in patients with nonperimesencephalic SAH and in whom initial angiography revealed no diagnostic findings, although a third session was thought to be superfluous.

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