Context: Delayed cerebral vasospasm causes permanent neurological deficits or death in at least 15% of patients following otherwise successful treatment for ruptured intracranial aneurysm. Decreased bioavailability of nitric oxide has been associated with the development of cerebral vasospasm.
Objective: To determine whether infusions of nitrite will prevent delayed cerebral vasospasm.
Design, setting, and subjects: A total of 14 anesthetized cynomolgus monkeys had an autologous blood clot placed around the right middle cerebral artery. Cerebral arteriography was performed before clot placement and on days 7 and 14 to assess vasospasm. The study was conducted from August 2003 to February 2004.
Interventions: A 90-mg sodium nitrite intravenous solution infused over 24 hours plus a 45-mg sodium nitrite bolus daily (n = 3); a 180-mg sodium nitrite intravenous solution infused over 24 hours (n = 3); or a control saline solution infusion (n = 8). Each was infused continuously for 14 days.
Main outcome measures: Nitrite, S-nitrosothiol, and methemoglobin levels in blood and cerebrospinal fluid and degree of arteriographic vasospasm.
Results: In control monkeys, mean (SD) cerebrospinal fluid nitrite levels decreased from 3.1 (1.5) micromol/L to 0.4 (0.1) micromol/L at day 7 and to 0.4 (0.4) micromol/L at day 14 (P = .03). All 8 control monkeys developed significant vasospasm of the right middle cerebral artery, which was complicated by stroke and death in 1 animal. Sodium nitrite infusions increased the nitrite and methemoglobin levels (<2.1% of total hemoglobin) in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid without evoking systemic hypotension. Nitrite infusion prevented development of vasospasm (no animals developed significant vasospasm; mean [SD] reduction in right middle cerebral artery area on day 7 after subarachnoid hemorrhage of 8% [9%] in nitrite-treated monkeys vs 47% [5%] in saline-treated controls; P<.001). There was a negative correlation between the concentration of nitrite in cerebrospinal fluid and the degree of cerebral vasospasm (P<.001). Pharmacological effects of nitrite infusion were also associated with the formation of S-nitrosothiol in cerebrospinal fluid. There was no clinical or pathological evidence of nitrite toxicity.
Conclusion: Subacute sodium nitrite infusions prevented delayed cerebral vasospasm in a primate model of subarachnoid hemorrhage.