Unruptured Intracranial Aneurysms. A Critical Review of the International Study of Unruptured Intracranial Aneurysms (ISUIA) and of Appropriate Methods to Address the Clinical Problem

Interv Neuroradiol. 2008 Mar 30;14(1):85-96. doi: 10.1177/159101990801400111. Epub 2008 May 12.


The preventive treatment of unruptured aneurysms has been performed for decades despite the lack of evidence of a clinical benefit. Reports of observational studies such as the International Study of Unruptured Intracranial Aneurysms (ISUIA) suggest that preventive treatments are rarely justified. Are these reports compelling enough to guide clinical practice? The ISUIA methods and data are reviewed and analysed in a more conventional manner. The design of the appropriate clinical research program is approached by steps, reviewing potential problems, from the formulation of the precise research question to the interpretation of subgroup analyses, including sample size, representativity, duration of observation period, blinding, definition of outcome events, analysis of cross-overs, losses to follow-up, and data reporting. Unruptured intracranial aneurysms observed in ISUIA ruptured at a minimal annual rate of 0.8% (0.5-1%), despite multiple methodological difficulties biased in favour of a benign natural history. Available registries do not have the power or the design capable of providing normative guidelines for clinical decisions. The appropriate method to solve the clinical dilemma is a multicentric trial comparing the incidence of a hard clinical outcome events in approximately 2000 patients randomly allocated to a treatment group and a deferred treatment group, all followed for ten years or more. Observational studies have failed to provide reliable evidence in favour or against the preventive treatment of unruptured aneurysms. A randomized trial is in order to clarify what is the role of prevention in this common clinical problem.