Microthrombosis after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage: an additional explanation for delayed cerebral ischemia

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2008 Nov;28(11):1761-70. doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.2008.74. Epub 2008 Jul 16.


Patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) who experience delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI) have an increased risk of poor outcome. Delayed cerebral ischemia is considered to be caused by vasospasm. However, not all patients with DCI have vasospasm. Inversely, not all patients with vasospasm develop clinical symptoms and signs of DCI. In the past, treatments aiming at vasospasm were not successful in preventing ischemia. The purpose of this review is to give an overview of clinical data showing that DCI cannot always be attributed to vasospasm, and to present an in-depth analysis of clinical and autopsy studies on the role of microthrombosis in the pathogenesis of DCI. Clinical studies show that DCI is associated with an activation of the coagulation cascade within a few days after SAH, preceding the time window during which vasospasm occurs. Furthermore, impaired fibrinolytic activity, and inflammatory and endothelium-related processes, lead to the formation of microthrombi, which ultimately result in DCI. The presence of microthrombi is confirmed by autopsy studies. Insight in the pathophysiology of DCI is crucial for the development of effective therapies against this complication. Because multiple pathways are involved, future research should focus on drugs with pleiotropic effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Ischemia / blood
  • Brain Ischemia / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology*
  • Coronary Thrombosis / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / blood
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / complications*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / etiology
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / physiopathology