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The purpose of this article is to describe the modern management of delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI) in patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). SAH causes an inflammatory reaction to blood products in the basal cisterns of the brain, which may produce cerebral ischemia and strokes through progressive narrowing of the cerebral artery lumen. This process, known as cerebral vasospasm, is the most common cause of DCI after SAH. Untreated DCI may result in strokes, which account for a significant portion of the death and long-term disability after SAH. A number of publications, including two recent consensus statements, have clarified many best practices for defining, diagnosing, monitoring, preventing, and treating DCI. DCI is best defined as new onset of focal or global neurologic deficits or strokes not attributable to another cause. In addition to the clinical examination, radiographic studies such as transcranial Doppler ultrasonography, CT angiography, and CT perfusion may have a role in determining which patients are at high risk for developing DCI. The mainstay of prevention and treatment of DCI is maintenance of euvolemia, which can be a difficult therapeutic target to measure. Hemodynamic augmentation with induced hypertension with or without inotropic support has become the first-line treatment of DCI. The ideal method of measuring hemodynamic values and volume status in patients with DCI remains elusive. In patients who do not adequately respond to or cannot tolerate hemodynamic augmentation, endovascular therapy (intraarterial vasodilators and balloon angioplasty) is a complementary strategy. Optimal triggers for escalation and de-escalation of therapies for DCI have not been well defined. Recent guidelines and consensus statements have clarified many aspects of prevention, monitoring, and treatment of DCI after SAH. Controversies continue regarding the optimal methods for measurement of volume status, the role of invasive neuromonitoring, and the targets for hemodynamic augmentation therapy.


Matthew A Koenig. Management of delayed cerebral ischemia after subarachnoid hemorrhage. Continuum (Minneapolis, Minn.). 2012 Jun;18(3):579-97

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PMID: 22810250

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