Background and purpose: In patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), higher hemoglobin (HGB) has been associated with better outcomes, but packed red blood cell (PRBC) transfusions with worse outcomes. We performed a prospective pilot trial of goal HGB after SAH.
Methods: Forty-four patients with SAH and high risk for vasospasm were randomized to goal HGB concentration of at least 10 or 11.5 g/dl. We obtained blinded clinical outcomes at 14 days (NIH Stroke Scale and modified Rankin Scale, mRS), 28 days (mRS), and 3 months (mRS), and blinded interpretation of brain MRI for cerebral infarction at 14 days. This trial is registered at www.stroketrials.org.
Results: Forty-four patients were randomized. Patients with goal HGB 11.5 g/dl received more PRBC units per transfusion [1 (1-2) vs. 1 (1-1), P < 0.001] and more total PRBC units [3 (2-4) vs. 2 (1-3), P = 0.045]. Prospectively defined safety endpoints were not different between groups. HGB concentration was different between study groups from day 4 onwards. The number of cerebral infarctions on MRI (6 of 20 vs. 9 of 22), NIH Stroke Scale scores at 14 days [1 (0-9.75) vs. 2 (0-16)], and rates of independence on the mRS at 14 days (65% vs. 44%) and 28 days (80% vs. 67%) were similar, but favored higher goal HGB (P > 0.1 for all).
Conclusions: Higher goal hemoglobin in patients with SAH seems to be safe and feasible. A phase III trial of goal HGB after SAH is warranted.