Indications for endovascular therapy for refractory vasospasm after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage: experience at the University of Cincinnati

Surg Neurol. 2002 Aug;58(2):131-8; discussion 138. doi: 10.1016/s0090-3019(02)00789-9.


Background: Transluminal balloon angioplasty (TBA) and intra-arterial papaverine (IAP) appear to be valuable alternatives for the treatment of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH)-induced vasospasm refractory to maximal medical therapy. Although widely used, guiding principles for the implementation of TBA and IAP are not yet established. Based on our retrospective analysis, we define guidelines for endovascular therapy for refractory vasospasm based on our clinical results, adverse effects, and pattern of vasospasm.

Methods: Medical records of 62 patients who experienced aneurysmal SAH-induced vasospasm refractory to hypervolemic, hypertensive, hyperdynamic therapy, and who were treated with IAP or TBA were reviewed. Fifty patients met the inclusion criteria for analysis. After careful scrutiny, two types of responses to endovascular treatment were identified. On the basis of that grouping, patients were divided into two groups according to the number of arterial segments involved, that is, monoterritorial and multiterritorial vasospasm. Multiple variables were analyzed.

Results: Patients undergoing multiple endovascular procedures exhibited the worst outcomes. Patients in the monoterritorial group experienced a higher incidence of clinical improvement and better outcomes after endovascular treatment. Elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) and ICP-related deaths were more prominent in the multiterritorial group of patients. Sustained ICP elevation after administration of IAP was strongly associated with poor outcome in the multiterritorial group.

Conclusions: IAP is indicated as an early potential single-dose infusion in distal monoterritorial vasospasm, if angioplasty is impossible or unsafe. The use of IAP in bilateral diffuse vasospasm is discouraged because of the high susceptibility of these patients to develop elevated ICP. Multiple IAP infusions seem to have no significant impact on patient outcome. Balloon angioplasty seems to be indicated at an early juncture in patients with multiterritorial proximal vasospasm.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / complications*
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / standards*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / complications*
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / standards*
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / etiology*
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / surgery