Delayed neurological deterioration after subarachnoid haemorrhage

Nat Rev Neurol. 2014 Jan;10(1):44-58. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2013.246. Epub 2013 Dec 10.


Subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) causes early brain injury (EBI) that is mediated by effects of transient cerebral ischaemia during bleeding plus effects of the subarachnoid blood. Secondary effects of SAH include increased intracranial pressure, destruction of brain tissue by intracerebral haemorrhage, brain shift, and herniation, all of which contribute to pathology. Many patients survive these phenomena, but deteriorate days later from delayed cerebral ischaemia (DCI), which causes poor outcome or death in up to 30% of patients with SAH. DCI is thought to be caused by the combined effects of angiographic vasospasm, arteriolar constriction and thrombosis, cortical spreading ischaemia, and processes triggered by EBI. Treatment for DCI includes prophylactic administration of nimodipine, and current neurointensive care. Prompt recognition of DCI and immediate treatment by means of induced hypertension and balloon or pharmacological angioplasty are considered important by many physicians, although the evidence to support such approaches is limited. This Review summarizes the pathophysiology of DCI after SAH and discusses established treatments for this condition. Novel strategies--including drugs such as statins, sodium nitrite, albumin, dantrolene, cilostazol, and intracranial delivery of nimodipine or magnesium--are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / etiology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Encephalitis / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuroimaging
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / complications*
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / etiology*