Cognitive impairment and adjustment in patients without neurological deficits after aneurysmal SAH and early operation

Bengt LjunggrenDepartments of Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden

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Bengt SonessonDepartments of Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden

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Hans SävelandDepartments of Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden

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Lennart BrandtDepartments of Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden

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✓ The mortality rate has recently been reduced to only a small percentage of patients selected for early aneurysm surgery. Despite recovery without neurological deficits, however, a diffuse encephalopathy may remain, with emotional and psychological sequelae that will interfere with rehabilitation and social reintegration. The present study evaluates quality of life, degree of cognitive dysfunction, and adjustment of patients with a satisfactory neurological recovery after aneurysm operation in the acute stage following a major subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Of 118 patients with a good neurological recovery, 40 patients were randomly sampled for a cross-sectional study and subjected to a questionnaire relating to their symptoms, a clinical interview, and a comprehensive neuropsychological investigation. The time interval between SAH and assessment varied between 14 months and 7 years, averaging 3½ years. By means of standardized psychometric testing of intellectual capacity, memory functions, visuo-spatial abilities, perceptual speed and accuracy, and concept formation, degrees of cognitive impairment ranging from slight to severe dysfunction were identified. The results suggest that these disturbances may be permanent. The degree of impairment appeared to correlate with the patients' age. Interview data revealed substantial post-hemorrhagic maladjustment with respect to vitality, social management, self-assertion, emotional control, temperament, mood, and cognitive abilities. These findings were considerably at variance with the symptoms reported. It is stressed that, in the absence of gross neurological deficits, vital information on post-hemorrhage adjustment and impairment may easily be overlooked due to psychological defensive measures. It remains an open question whether post-SAH encephalopathy is enhanced by surgery performed in the acute stage.

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