Comparison of balloon angioplasty and papaverine infusion for the treatment of vasospasm following aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage

J Neurosurg. 1998 Feb;88(2):277-84. doi: 10.3171/jns.1998.88.2.0277.


Object: The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that balloon angioplasty is superior to papaverine infusion for the treatment of proximal anterior circulation arterial vasospasm following subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Between 1989 and 1995, 125 vasospastic distal internal carotid artery or proximal middle cerebral artery vessel segments were treated in 52 patients.

Methods: Blood flow velocities of the involved vessels were assessed by using transcranial Doppler (TCD) monitoring in relation to the day of treatment with balloon angioplasty or papaverine infusion. Balloon angioplasty and papaverine infusion cohorts were compared based on mean pre- and posttreatment velocity at 24 and 48 hours using the one-tailed, paired-samples t-test. Balloon angioplasty alone was performed in 101 vessel segments (81%) in 39 patients (75%), whereas papaverine infusion alone was used in 24 vessel segments (19%) in 13 patients (25%). Although repeated treatment after balloon angioplasty was needed in only one vessel segment, repeated treatment following papaverine infusion was required in 10 vessel segments (42%) in six patients because of recurrent vasospasm (p < 0.001). Seven vessel segments (29%) with recurrent spasm following papaverine infusion were treated with balloon angioplasty. Although vessel segments treated with papaverine demonstrated a 20% mean decrease in blood flow velocity (p < 0.009) on posttreatment Day 1, velocities were not significantly lower than pretreatment levels by posttreatment Day 2 (p = 0.133). Balloon angioplasty resulted in a 45% mean decrease in velocity to a normal level following treatment (p < 0.001), a decrease that was sustained.

Conclusions: Balloon angioplasty is superior to papaverine infusion for the permanent treatment of proximal anterior circulation vasospasm following aneurysmal SAH.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Angioplasty, Balloon*
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / complications*
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / diagnosis
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / etiology*
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Papaverine / therapeutic use*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / complications*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Papaverine