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Giuseppe Lanzino, Neal F. Kassell, Teresa P. Germanson, Gail L. Kongable, Laura L. Truskowski, James C. Torner, John A. Jane, and Participants

✓ Advanced age is a recognized prognostic indicator of poor outcome after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). The relationship of age to other prognostic factors and outcome was evaluated using data from the multicenter randomized trial of nicardipine in SAH conducted in 21 neurosurgical centers in North America. Among the 906 patients who were studied, five different age groups were considered: 40 years or less, 41 to 50, 51 to 60, 61 to 70, and more than 71 years. Twenty-three percent of the individuals enrolled were older than 60 years of age. Women outnumbered men in all age groups.

Level of consciousness (p = 0.0002) and World Federation of Neurological Surgeons grade (p = 0.0001) at admission worsened with advancing age. Age was also related to the presence of a thick subarachnoid clot (p = 0.0001), intraventricular hemorrhage (p = 0.0003), and hydrocephalus (p = 0.0001) on an admission computerized tomography scan. The rebleeding rate increased from 4.5% in the youngest age group to 16.4% in patients more than 70 years of age (p = 0.002). As expected, preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes (p = 0.028), hypertension (p = 0.0001), and pulmonary (p = 0.0084), myocardial (p = 0.0001), and cerebrovascular diseases (p = 0.0001), were positively associated with age. There were no age-related differences in the day of admission following SAH, timing of the surgery and/or location, and size (small vs. large) of the ruptured aneurysm.

During the treatment period, the incidence of severe complications (that is, those complications considered life threatening by the reporting investigator) increased with advancing age, occurring in 28%, 33%, 36%, 40%, and 46% of the patients in each advancing age group, respectively (p = 0.0002). No differences were observed in the reported frequency of surgical complications. No age-related differences were found in the overall incidence of angiographic vasospasm; however, symptomatic vasospasm was more frequently reported in the older age groups (p = 0.01). Overall outcome, assessed using the Glasgow Outcome Scale at 3 months post-SAH, was poorer with advancing age (p < 0.001). Multivariate analysis of overall outcome, adjusting for the different prognostic factors, did not remove the age effect, which suggests that the aging brain has a less optimal response to the initial bleeding. Age as a risk factor is a continuum; however, there seems to be a significant increased risk of poor outcome after the age of 60 years.

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Richard S. Polin, Mark E. Shaffrey, Mary E. Jensen, Lisa Braden, Robert D. G. Ferguson, Jacques E. Dion, and Neal F. Kassell

✓ Carotid-cavernous aneurysms account for between 1.9% and 9.0% of intracranial aneurysms. Entirely intercavernous aneurysms are believed to have a relatively benign course, with cranial nerve findings or headache being the usual initial symptomatology; however, subarachnoid hemorrhage or carotid-cavernous fistula formation can result from rupture. Over the past 15 years endovascular parent artery occlusion has essentially replaced surgical carotid occlusion as the treatment of choice. The authors describe a series of 39 consecutive patients at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center who underwent endovascular treatment of a carotid-cavernous aneurysm. Aggressive invasive hemodynamic monitoring and maintenance of a state of normo- to mild hypervolemia in the asymptomatic patient was used throughout the periprocedural period. Rapid institution of hypervolemic—hypertensive therapy can reverse early neurological deficits related to hypoperfusion in these patients. Only one individual managed with this protocol developed neurological deficits not reversible with hypertensive-hypervolemic therapy. Heparin therapy was administered for 48 hours after occlusion, with patients receiving subsequent aspirin therapy for 6 months to combat distal embolism secondary to thrombosis. Long-term complications were not seen in patients receiving aneurysm trapping; however, two individuals with proximal carotid occlusion developed late optic neuropathy and one had recurrent transient ischemic attacks that ceased with supraclinoidal carotid clipping.

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Neal F. Kassell, E. Clarke Haley Jr., Carolyn Apperson-Hansen, Wayne M. Alves, and Participants

✓ Tirilazad mesylate, a nonglucocorticoid 21-aminosteroid, has been shown in experimental models to reduce vasospasm following subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) and to reduce infarct size from focal cerebral ischemia. To test whether treatment with tirilazad would reduce ischemic symptoms from vasospasm and improve overall outcome in patients with ruptured aneurysms, a prospective randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled trial was conducted at 41 neurosurgical centers in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. One thousand twenty-three patients were randomly assigned to receive 0.6, 2, or 6 mg/kg per day of intravenously administered tirilazad or a placebo containing the citrate vehicle. All patients were also treated with intravenously administered nimodipine. Patients receiving 6 mg/kg per day of tirilazad had reduced mortality (p = 0.01) and a greater frequency of good recovery on the Glasgow Outcome Scale 3 months after SAH (p = 0.01) than similar patients treated with vehicle. There was a reduction in symptomatic vasospasm in the group that received 6 mg/kg per day tirilazad; however, the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.048). The benefits of treatment with tirilazad were predominantly shown in men rather than in women. There were no material differences between the outcomes in the groups treated with 0.6 and 2 mg/kg tirilazad per day and the group treated with vehicle. Tirilazad was well tolerated at all three dose levels.

These observations suggest that tirilazad mesylate, at a dosage of 6 mg/kg per day, is safe and improves overall outcome in patients (especially in men) who have experienced an aneurysmal SAH.

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Gail L. Kongable, Giuseppe Lanzino, Teresa P. Germanson, Laura L. Truskowski, Wayne M. Alves, James C. Torner, Neal F. Kassell, and the Participants

✓ Female gender is a recognized risk factor for the occurrence of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. In the present study the authors analyzed differences in admission characteristics and outcome between 578 women (64%) and 328 men (36%) who were enrolled in a recently completed clinical trial. The female-to-male ratio was nearly 2:1. The women in the study were older than the men (mean age 51.4 years vs. 47.3 years, respectively, p < 0.001). Female patients harbored aneurysms of the internal carotid artery more frequently than male patients (36.8% vs. 18.0%, p < 0.001) and more often had multiple aneurysms (32.4% vs. 17.6%, p < 0.001). On the other hand, anterior cerebral artery aneurysms were more commonly encountered in men (46.1% in men vs. 26.6% in women, p < 0.001). Other baseline prognostic factors were balanced between the gender groups. Surgery was performed equally in both sexes (98%), although the time to operation was shorter for women (mean 3.6 days for women vs. 5.3 days for men, p = 0.0002). In the placebo group, the occurrence of vasospasm was not statistically different between the two groups. Primary causes of death and disability were the same, and favorable outcome rates at 3 months were not statistically different between the genders (69.7% for women vs. 73.4% for men, p = 0.243). The odds of a favorable outcome in women versus one in men were not statistically significant either before or after adjustment for age. These observations lead the authors to suggest that although women are older and harbor more aneurysms, the 3-month outcome for women and men who experience aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage is the same.

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Satoshi Suzuki, Neal F. Kassell, and Kevin S. Lee

✓ Hemin is a prominent breakdown product of hemoglobin, and high levels of hemin are found in the cerebrospinal fluid during subarachnoid hemorrhage—induced vasospasm. The possible role of hemin in modifying vascular function was examined in the present study by testing its effects on nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity in cultured rat aortic smooth-muscle cells. Nitric oxide synthase activity was estimated from the amounts of accumulated nitrite and nitrate, which are oxidative products of nitric oxide (NO). Hemin (1–100 µM) increased the levels of nitrite and nitrate in culture medium in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The hemin-induced elevation of nitrite and nitrate was inhibited significantly by the NOS inhibitor, Nω-nitro-l-arginine (300 µM), and by the protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide (5 µg/ml). These results indicate that hemin is capable of stimulating the expression of an inducible isoform of NOS (iNOS) in vascular smooth muscle. Transcriptional expression of iNOS is known to cause injurious effects on the maintenance of cellular homeostasis by generating extremely high levels of NO. The generation of hemin from methemoglobin during hemolysis of a subarachnoid blood clot could therefore stimulate an excessive production of NO in vascular smooth-muscle cells. It is postulated that this series of events contributes to the development of vascular injury associated with cerebral vasospasm after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage.

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Bernhard Sutter, Satoshi Suzuki, Adam S. Arthur, Neal F. Kassell, and Kevin S. Lee

✓ Calcitonin gene—related peptide (CGRP) is a potent vasodilator and a primary signaling molecule in neurovascular communication. In the present study, the authors examined cerebrovascular responses to CGRP and its related second messenger systems during cerebral vasospasm induced by subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Tension measurements were performed in vitro on ring strips of basilar arteries obtained from rabbits subjected to artificial SAH and from control (non-SAH) animals. In vessels from SAH animals, which were preconstricted with serotonin, the vasorelaxant response to CGRP was attenuated. Because it has been suggested that vasodilation elicited by CGRP is mediated by cyclic 3′,5′-adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and/or cyclic 3′,5′-guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), the vascular effects of directly activating these second messenger systems were also examined. The relaxant effect of forskolin, which activates adenylate cyclase directly, was slightly enhanced after SAH. In contrast, the relaxant effect of nitroglycerin (GTN), which activates soluble guanylate cyclase directly, was unchanged after SAH.

The attenuation of CGRP-induced vasorelaxation could be the result of a modification in its ability to stimulate the production of second messengers. Experiments testing the capacity of CGRP to elevate cAMP levels showed no significant differences between vessels from non-SAH and SAH animals. Similarly, the resting levels of cAMP and the forskolin-induced elevations of cAMP did not differ between non-SAH and SAH animals. In contrast, cGMP levels were lower in resting and CGRP-treated vessels from SAH animals than in those from non-SAH animals. No significant differences in the levels of cGMP were observed between non-SAH and SAH vessels treated with GTN.

This study indicates that CGRP-induced vasodilation is attenuated during vasospasm in a rabbit model of SAH. The findings also demonstrate that vasodilatory responses mediated by cAMP and cGMP are intact, although the levels of cGMP in SAH vessels are reduced. Together, these observations suggest that an attenuation in the capacity of vessels to dilate in response to CGRP occurs during cerebral vasospasm, and this change in CGRP vasoactivity is a result of modifications prior to, or independent of, the elevation of cyclic nucleotide second messengers.

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Marc N. Pilipuf, John C. Goble, and Neal F. Kassell

✓ The authors have developed a noninvasive head immobilization system for use in neuroimaging (magnetic resonance imaging, computerized tomography, single photon emission computerized tomography, and projection angiography), neurosurgical planning, and neurosurgery. These diagnostic and surgical procedures require patient immobilization, reproducible patient positioning, and anatomical localization. The thermoplastic system described in this technical note addresses each of these requirements with a high degree of accuracy and with no bone fixation. The reproducibility of positioning and effectiveness of immobilization were evaluated using nine healthy volunteers during repeated sessions of magnetic resonance imaging. The mean axial displacement for repeated positioning was 0.6 mm (variance 0.1 mm); the mean displacement during robust patient motion in the axial direction was 1.8 mm (variance 0.9 mm).

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Phase II trial of tirilazad in aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage

A report of the Cooperative Aneurysm Study

E. Clarke Haley Jr., Neal F. Kassell, Wayne M. Alves, Bryce K. A. Weir, Carolyn Apperson Hansen, and Participants

✓ Tirilazad mesylate, a 21-aminosteroid free-radical scavenger, has been shown to ameliorate cerebral vasospasm and reduce infarct size in animal models of subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) and focal cerebral ischemia. In preparation for performing large-scale clinical trials in humans with aneurysmal SAH, the safety of varying doses of tirilazad was tested in a randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled, sequential dose-escalation study at 12 Canadian neurosurgical centers. Two hundred forty-five patients with an aneurysmal SAH documented by angiography were enrolled in the study sequentially within 72 hours of hemorrhage. The patients were assigned to one of three dosage tiers: receiving 0.6 mg/kg, 2 mg/kg, or 6 mg/kg tirilazad or vehicle per day intravenously in divided doses through Day 10 following the SAH. All patients also received oral nimodipine. No serious side effects of tirilazad treatment were identified at any of the three doses, despite close monitoring of hepatic and cardiac toxicity. A trend toward improvement in overall 3-month patient outcome was seen in the 2 mg/kg per day tirilazad-treated group compared to the outcomes in the vehicle-treated groups. We conclude that tirilazad mesylate is safe in SAH patients at doses up to 6 mg/kg per day for up to 10 days and is a promising drug for the treatment of patients with aneurysmal SAH.

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Bernhard Sutter, Satoshi Suzuki, Neal F. Kassell, and Kevin S. Lee

✓ Increasing evidence suggests that disturbances in the modulatory influence of the vasoactive peptide, calcitonin gene—related peptide (CGRP), contribute to the pathogenesis of cerebral vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). However, only limited success has been achieved in trials attempting to ameliorate vasospasm by modifying CGRP function. To better understand the potential utility of targeting CGRP-mediated relaxation, it is important both to identify the interactions CGRP may have with other elements of the vasospastic response and to characterize the mechanisms through which CGRP elicits vasodilative effects. The present studies examined the effects of CGRP on vascular responsiveness using tension measurements of ring strips of rabbit basilar artery maintained in vitro. Pretreatment of vessels with CGRP (100 nM) inhibited vasoconstrictor responses to the potent protein kinase C (PKC) activator, phorbol 12,13-dibutyrate (PDB). This particular contractile response was selected because PKC-mediated vasoconstriction is a critical component of the vasospastic response after SAH. In a posttreatment paradigm, CGRP was also found to reverse established constriction responses to PDB (2 nM) and histamine (3 µM) in a dose-dependent manner.

When tested against the maximum effective dose of PDB (30 nM) in the posttreatment paradigm, CGRP (100 nM) did not elicit significant relaxation. However, after washing both of these drugs out of the test chamber, a persistent effect of CGRP was revealed: the decay of PDB-induced contraction was accelerated in vessels that had previously been treated with CGRP. These findings indicate that CGRP elicits both immediate and sustained influences on contractile responses mediated by PKC.

Finally, two potential mechanisms for the vascular response to CGRP were examined. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—sensitive K+ channels do not appear to participate in CGRP-mediated dilation; inhibitors of these channels, glibenclamide and tolbutamide, did not block CGRP-induced relaxation. In contrast, a possible role for the nucleotide cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) in the vascular response to CGRP was indicated by the dose-dependent elevation of cAMP levels by CGRP.

Together these studies indicate that CGRP can modulate the contractile response to PKC activation. These effects are associated with increases in the levels of cAMP, but occur independently of fluxes through ATP-sensitive K+ channels.