Aneurismal subarachnoid hemorrhage during the COVID-19 outbreak in a Hub and Spoke system: observational multicenter cohort study in Lombardy, Italy

Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2022 Jan;164(1):141-150. doi: 10.1007/s00701-021-05013-9. Epub 2021 Oct 25.


Background: Lombardy was the most affected Italian region by the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and underwent urgent reorganization for the management of emergencies, including subarachnoid hemorrhage from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm (aSAH). The aim of the study was to define demographics, clinical, and therapeutic features of aSAH during the COVID-19 outbreak and compare these with a historical cohort.

Methods: In this observational multicenter cohort study, patients aged 18 years or older, who were diagnosed with aSAH at the participating centers in Lombardy from March 9 to May 10, 2020, were included (COVID-19 group). In order to minimize bias related to possible SAH seasonality, the control group was composed of patients diagnosed with aSAH from March 9 to May 10 of the three previous years, 2017-2018-2019 (pre-pandemic group). Twenty-three demographic, clinical, and therapeutic features were collected. Statistical analysis was performed.

Results: Seventy-two patients during the COVID-19 period and 179 in the control group were enrolled at 14 centers. Only 4 patients were positive for SARS-CoV-2. The "diagnostic delay" was significantly increased (+ 68%) in the COVID-19 group vs. pre-pandemic (1.06 vs. 0.63 days, respectively, p-value = 0.030), while "therapeutic delay" did not differ significantly between the two periods (0.89 vs. 0.74 days, p-value = 0.183). Patients with poor outcome (GOS at discharge from 1 to 3) were higher during the COVID-19 period (54.2%) compared to pre-pandemic (40.2%, p = 0.044). In logistic regression analysis, in which outcome was the dichotomized Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS), five variables showed p-values < 0.05: age at admission, WFNS grade, treatment (none), days in ICU, and ischemia.

Conclusions: We documented a significantly increased "diagnostic delay" for subarachnoid hemorrhages during the first COVID-19 outbreak in Lombardy. However, despite the dramatic situation that the healthcare system was experiencing, the Lombardy regional reorganization model, which allowed centralization of neurosurgical emergencies such as SAHs, avoided a "therapeutic delay" and led to results overall comparable to the control period.

Keywords: COVID-19; Hub and Spoke; Intracranial bleeding aneurysm; Logistic regression; Pandemic; Subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage* / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome