JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Sensitivity of Early Brain Computed Tomography to Exclude Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Nicole M Dubosh, M Fernanda Bellolio, Alejandro A Rabinstein, Jonathan A Edlow
Stroke; a Journal of Cerebral Circulation 2016, 47 (3): 750-5
26797666

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Emerging evidence demonstrating the high sensitivity of early brain computed tomography (CT) brings into question the necessity of always performing lumbar puncture after a negative CT in the diagnosis of spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Our objective was to determine the sensitivity of brain CT using modern scanners (16-slice technology or greater) when performed within 6 hours of headache onset to exclude SAH in neurologically intact patients.

METHODS: After conducting a comprehensive literature search using Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid EMBASE, Web of Science, and Scopus, we conducted a meta-analysis. We included original research studies of adults presenting with a history concerning for spontaneous SAH and who had noncontrast brain CT scan using a modern generation multidetector CT scanner within 6 hours of symptom onset. Our study adheres to the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA).

RESULTS: A total of 882 titles were reviewed and 5 articles met inclusion criteria, including an estimated 8907 patients. Thirteen had a missed SAH (incidence 1.46 per 1000) on brain CTs within 6 hours. Overall sensitivity of the CT was 0.987 (95% confidence intervals, 0.971-0.994) and specificity was 0.999 (95% confidence intervals, 0.993-1.0). The pooled likelihood ratio of a negative CT was 0.010 (95% confidence intervals, 0.003-0.034).

CONCLUSIONS: In patients presenting with thunderclap headache and normal neurological examination, normal brain CT within 6 hours of headache is extremely sensitive in ruling out aneurysmal SAH.

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