Treatment of cerebral vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage—a review

Ching-Tang Wu, Chih-Shung Wong, Chun-Chang Yeh, Cecil O Borel
Acta Anaesthesiologica Taiwanica: Official Journal of the Taiwan Society of Anesthesiologists 2004, 42 (4): 215-22
Delayed cerebral ischemia as a result of cerebral vasospasm is the most common cause of death and disability after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). It leads to death or permanent neurologic deficits in over 17-40% of SAH patients. The initial and main symptom of cerebral vasospasm is diffuse headache and may be accompanied with a slight increase in discomfort from neck stiffness and fever. The clinical diagnosis of cerebral vasospasm is made when the patient experiences an altered level of consciousness or a new focal neurologic deficit. There has been a great progress in identifying the patients at risk, putative mechanisms, and possible treatment options for cerebral vasospasm. However, the problem is by no means solved, mainly due to a limited understanding of the pathologic mechanisms of this complex disease. The iatrogenic factors that can increase the risk of cerebral vasospasm include prolongation of the subarachnoid clot by antifibrinolytic drugs, hypotension, inappropriate treatment of hyponatremia, hypovolemia, hyperthermia and increased intracranial pressure. Nimodipine has been shown to improve neurologic outcome and decrease the incidence of cerebral vasospasm. Triple H therapy is a treatment designed to augment cerebral blood flow for patient with cerebral vasospasm. Hypervolemic hypertension is induced with intravenous volume expansion with crystalloid or colloid to increase cardiac output and raise blood pressure. However, small randomized trials showed no clear benefit. Recently, balloon and chemical angioplasty with superselective intra-arterial injection of vasodilators has emerged as the primary intervention for treating medically refractory ischemia from cerebral vasospasm and in many centers is being used as a first-line treatment or even prophylactically. In addition, promising new treatments for cerebral vasospasm or its ischemic complications include magnesium sulfate, fasudil hydrochloride, tirilazad mesylate, erythropoietin, and induced hypothermia; however, all still need further clinical trials. Newly recognized mediators of cerebral vasospasm after SAH include endothelium-derived mediators, vascular smooth-muscle-derived mediators, proinflammatory mediators involved in blood-brain barrier disruption, cytokines and adhesion molecules, stress-induced gene activation, and platelet-derived growth factors. Moreover, observations in the laboratory have, in many circumstances, matched those of reported small series. Larger, prospective, randomized trials are needed to verify several hypotheses of molecular pathophysiology and clinical treatment regimens.

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