Brain iron metabolism and brain injury following subarachnoid hemorrhage: iCeFISH-pilot (CSF iron in SAH)

Neurocrit Care. 2014 Oct;21(2):285-93. doi: 10.1007/s12028-014-9977-8.


Introduction: Iron-mediated oxidative damage has been implicated in the genesis of cerebral vasospasm in animal models of SAH. We sought to explore the relationship between levels of non-protein bound iron in cerebrospinal fluid and the development of brain injury in patients with aneurysmal SAH.

Methods: Patients admitted with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage to a Neurointensive care unit of an academic, tertiary medical center, with Hunt and Hess grades 2-4 requiring ventriculostomy insertion as part of their clinical management were included in this pilot study. Samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were obtained on days 1, 3, and 5. A fluorometric assay that relies on an oxidation sensitive probe was used to measure unbound iron, and levels of iron-handling proteins were measured by means of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. We prospectively collected and recorded demographic, clinical, and radiological data.

Results: A total of 12 patients were included in this analysis. Median Hunt and Hess score on admission was 3.5 (IQR: 1) and median modified Fisher scale score was 4 (IQR: 1). Seven of 12 patients (58 %) developed delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI). Day 5 non-transferrin bound iron (NTBI) (7.88 ± 1 vs. 3.58 ± 0.8, p = 0.02) and mean NTBI (7.39 ± 0.4 vs. 3.34 + 0.4 p = 0.03) were significantly higher in patients who developed DCI. Mean redox-active iron, as well as day 3 levels of redox-active iron correlated with development of angiographic vasospasm in logistic regression analysis (p = 0.02); while mean redox-active iron and lower levels of ceruloplasmin on days 3, 5, and peak concentration were correlated with development of deep cerebral infarcts.

Conclusions: Our preliminary data indicate a causal relationship between unbound iron and brain injury following SAH and suggest a possible protective role for ceruloplasmin in this setting, particularly in the prevention of cerebral ischemia. Further studies are needed to validate these findings and to probe their clinical significance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / metabolism*
  • Ceruloplasmin / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / complications
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / metabolism*
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / etiology
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / metabolism*


  • Iron
  • Ceruloplasmin