Background: Treatment of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) has changed substantially over the last 25 years but there is a lack of reliable population-based data on whether case-fatality or functional outcomes have improved.
Methods: We determined changes in the standardized incidence and outcome of SAH in the same population between 1981 and 1986 (Oxford Community Stroke Project) and 2002 and 2008 (Oxford Vascular Study). In a meta-analysis with other population-based studies, we used linear regression to determine time trends in outcome.
Results: There were no reductions in incidence of SAH (RR = 0.79, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.48-1.29, p = 0.34) and in 30-day case-fatality (RR = 0.67, 95% CI 0.39-1.13, p = 0.14) in the Oxford Vascular Study vs Oxford Community Stroke Project, but there was a decrease in overall mortality (RR = 0.47, 0.23-0.97, p = 0.04). Following adjustment for age and baseline SAH severity, patients surviving to hospital had reduced risk of death or dependency (modified Rankin score > 3) at 12 months in the Oxford Vascular Study (RR = 0.51, 0.29-0.88, p = 0.01). Among 32 studies covering 39 study periods from 1980 to 2005, 7 studied time trends within single populations. Unadjusted case-fatality fell by 0.9% per annum (0.3-1.5, p = 0.007) in a meta-analysis of data from all studies, and by 0.9% per annum (0.2-1.6%, p = 0.01) within the 7 population studies.
Conclusion: Mortality due to subarachnoid hemorrhage fell by about 50% in our study population over the last 2 decades, due mainly to improved outcomes in cases surviving to reach hospital. This improvement is consistent with a significant decrease in case-fatality over the last 25 years in our pooled analysis of other similar population-based studies.