Inflammation, cerebral vasospasm, and evolving theories of delayed cerebral ischemia

Neurol Res Int. 2013;2013:506584. doi: 10.1155/2013/506584. Epub 2013 Aug 22.


Cerebral vasospasm (CVS) is a potentially lethal complication of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH). Recently, the symptomatic presentation of CVS has been termed delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI), occurring as early as 3-4 days after the sentinel bleed. For the past 5-6 decades, scientific research has promulgated the theory that cerebral vasospasm plays a primary role in the pathology of DCI and subsequently delayed ischemic neurological decline (DIND). Approximately 70% of patients develop CVS after aSAH with 50% long-term morbidity rates. The exact etiology of CVS is unknown; however, a well-described theory involves an antecedent inflammatory cascade with alterations of intracellular calcium dynamics and nitric oxide fluxes, though the intricacies of this inflammatory theory are currently unknown. Consequently, there have been few advances in the clinical treatment of this patient cohort, and morbidity remains high. Identification of intermediaries in the inflammatory cascade can provide insight into newer clinical interventions in the prevention and management of cerebral vasospasm and will hopefully prevent neurological decline. In this review, we discuss current theories implicating the inflammatory cascade in the development of CVS and potential treatment targets.

Publication types

  • Review