Vasospasm after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage: review of randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses in the literature

Gregory J Velat, Matthew M Kimball, J D Mocco, Brian L Hoh
World Neurosurgery 2011, 76 (5): 446-54

OBJECTIVE: Cerebral vasospasm is a major source of morbidity and mortality following aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). A variety of therapies have been utilized to prevent or treat vasospasm. Despite the large number of clinical trials, few randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of sufficient quality have been published. We review the RCTs and meta-analyses in the literature regarding the treatment and prevention of cerebral vasospasm following aneurysmal SAH.

METHODS: A literature search of MEDLINE, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Registry, and the National Institutes of Health/National Library of Medicine clinical trials registry was performed in January 2010 using predefined search terms. These trials were critically reviewed and categorized based on therapeutic modality.

RESULTS: Forty-four RCTs and 9 meta-analyses met the search criteria. Significant findings from these trials were analyzed. The results of this study were as follows: nimodipine demonstrated benefit following aneurysmal SAH; other calcium channel blockers, including nicardipine, do not provide unequivocal benefit; triple-H therapy, fasudil, transluminal balloon angioplasty, thrombolytics, endothelin receptor antagonists, magnesium, statins, and miscellaneous therapies such as free radical scavengers and antifibrinolytics require additional study. Tirilazad is ineffective.

CONCLUSIONS: There are many possible successful treatment options for preventing vasospasm, delayed ischemic neurologic deficits, and poor neurologic outcome following aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage; however, further multicenter RCTs need to be performed to determine if there is a significant benefit from their use. Nimodipine is the only treatment that provided a significant benefit across multiple studies.

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