Objective: Accurate outcome prediction after high-grade subarachnoid hemorrhage remains imprecise. Several clinical grading scales are in common use, but the timing of grading and changes in grade after admission have not been carefully evaluated. We hypothesized that these latter factors could have a significant impact on outcome prediction.
Methods: Fifty-six consecutive patients with altered mental status after subarachnoid hemorrhage, who were managed at a single institution, were studied retrospectively. On the basis of prospectively assessed elements of the clinical examination, each patient was graded at admission, at best before treatment, at worst before treatment, immediately before treatment, and at best within 24 hours after treatment of the aneurysm using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), the World Federation of Neurological Surgeons (WFNS) scale, and the Hunt and Hess scale. Outcome at 6 months was determined using a modification of the Glasgow Outcome Scale validated against the Karnofsky scale. All grades and clinical and radiographic data collected were compared among good and poor outcome groups. Multivariate analyses were then performed to determine which grading scale, which time of grading, and which other factors were correlated with and contributed significantly to outcome prediction.
Results: A good outcome was achieved in 24 (43%) of 56 patients. Our study also had a 32% mortality rate. With the Hunt and Hess scale, only the worst pretreatment grade was significantly correlated with outcome. However, with the GCS and the WFNS scale, grading at all pretreatment times was significantly correlated with outcome, although outcome was best predicted before treatment, regardless of the scale used, if grading was performed at the patient's clinical worst. Multivariate analysis revealed that the best predictor of outcome was WFNS grade at clinical worst before treatment. Used alone, a WFNS Grade 3 at worst pretreatment predicted a 75% favorable outcome, and a WFNS Grade 5 at worst pretreatment predicted an 87% poor outcome. No significant correlation was found between direction or magnitude of change in grade and outcome. Age was found to be significantly correlated with outcome, but it was only an independent factor in outcome prediction when used in conjunction with the Hunt and Hess scale and not with the WFNS scale and the GCS.
Conclusion: Timing of grading is an important factor in outcome prediction that needs to be standardized. This study suggests that the patient's worst clinical grade is most predictive of outcome, especially when the patient is assessed using the WFNS scale or the GCS.