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Ryszard M. Pluta, John K. B. Afshar, B. Gregory Thompson, Robert J. Boock, Judith Harvey-White and Edward H. Oldfield

Object. The reduction in the level of nitric oxide (NO) is a purported mechanism of delayed vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Evidence in support of a causative role for NO includes the disappearance of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) from the adventitia of vessels in spasm, the destruction of NO by hemoglobin released from the clot into the subarachnoid space, and reversal of vasospasm by intracarotid NO. The authors sought to establish whether administration of l-arginine, the substrate of the NO-producing enzyme NOS, would reverse and/or prevent vasospasm in a primate model of SAH.

Methods. The study was composed of two sets of experiments: one in which l-arginine was infused over a brief period into the carotid artery of monkeys with vasospasm, and the other in which l-arginine was intravenously infused into monkeys over a longer period of time starting at onset of SAH. In the short-term infusion experiment, the effect of a 3-minute intracarotid infusion of l-arginine (intracarotid concentration 10−6 M) on the degree of vasospasm of the right middle cerebral artery (MCA) and on regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was examined in five cynomolgus monkeys. In the long-term infusion experiment, the effect of a 14-day intravenous infusion of saline (control group, five animals) or l-arginine (10−3 M; six animals) on the occurrence and degree of cerebral vasospasm was examined in monkeys. The degree of vasospasm in all experiments was assessed by cerebral arteriography, which was performed preoperatively and on postoperative Days 7 (short and long-term infusion experiments) and 14 (long-term infusion experiment). In the long-term infusion experiment, plasma levels of l-arginine were measured at these times in the monkeys to confirm l-arginine availability.

Vasospasm was not affected by the intracarotid infusion of l-arginine (shown by the reduction in the right MCA area on an anteroposterior arteriogram compared with preoperative values). However, intracarotid l-arginine infusion increased rCBF by 21% (p < 0.015; PCO2 38–42 mm Hg) in all vasospastic monkeys compared with rCBF measured during the saline infusions. In the long-term infusion experiment, vasospasm of the right MCA occurred with similar intensity with or without continuous intravenous administration of l-arginine on Day 7 and had resolved by Day 14. The mean plasma l-arginine level increased during infusion from 12.7 ± 4 µg/ml on Day 0 to 21.9 ± 13.1 µg/ml on Day 7 and was 18.5 ± 3.1 µg/ml on Day 14 (p < 0.05).

Conclusions. Brief intracarotid and continuous intravenous infusion of l-arginine did not influence the incidence or degree of cerebral vasospasm. After SAH, intracarotid infusion of l-arginine markedly increased rCBF in a primate model of SAH. These findings discourage the use of l-arginine as a treatment for vasospasm after SAH.

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Ryszard M. Pluta, John K. B. Afshar, Robert J. Boock and Edward H. Oldfield

Hemoglobin released from hemolysed erythrocytes has been postulated to be responsible for delayed cerebral vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). However, the evidence is indirect and the mechanisms of action are unclear. Cerebrovascular tone is regulated by a dynamic balance of relaxing and contracting factors. Loss of the endothelium-derived relaxing factor—nitric oxide in the presence of oxyhemoglobin and overproduction of endothelin-1 stimulated by oxyhemoglobin have been postulated as causes of delayed cerebral vasospasm after SAH.

Object. The authors aimed to investigate this hypothesis using in vivo microdialysis to examine time-dependent changes in the perivascular concentrations of oxyhemoglobin, deoxyhemoglobin, and methemoglobin in a primate model of SAH.

Methods. Nine cynomolgus monkeys underwent right-sided frontotemporal craniectomy and placement of a semipermeable microdialysis catheter adjacent to the right middle cerebral artery (MCA). Saline (control group, three animals) or an arterial blood clot (SAH group, six animals) was then placed around the MCA and the catheter. Arteriographically confirmed vasospasm had developed in all animals with SAH but in none of the control animals on Day 7. The dialysate was collected daily for 12 days. Levels of oxyhemoglobin, deoxyhemoglobin, and methemoglobin were measured by means of spectrophotometry.

Perivascular concentrations of oxyhemoglobin, deoxyhemoglobin, and methemoglobin peaked on Day 2 in the control monkeys and could not be detected on Days 5 to 12. Perivascular concentrations of oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin peaked on Day 7 in the SAH group, at which time the concentrations in the dialysate were 100-fold higher than in any sample obtained from the control animals. Methemoglobin levels increased only slightly, peaking between Days 7 and 12, at which time the concentration in the dialysate was 10-fold higher than in samples from the control animals.

Conclusions. This study provides in vivo evidence that the concentrations of oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin increase in the cerebral subarachnoid perivascular space during the development of delayed cerebral vasospasm. The results support the hypothesis that oxyhemoglobin is involved in the pathogenesis of delayed cerebral vasospasm after SAH and implicate deoxyhemoglobin as a possible vasospastic agent.

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John K. B. Afshar, Ryszard M. Pluta, Robert J. Boock, B. Gregory Thompson and Edward H. Oldfield

✓ The continuous release of nitric oxide (NO) is required to maintain basal cerebrovascular tone. Oxyhemoglobin, a putative spasmogen, rapidly binds NO, implicating loss of NO in the pathogenesis of cerebral vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). If vasospasm is mediated by depletion of NO in the vessel wall, it should be reversible by replacement with NO. To investigate this hypothesis, the authors placed blood clots around the right middle cerebral artery (RMCA) of four cynomolgus monkeys; four unoperated animals served as controls. Arteriography was performed before and 7 days after surgery to assess the presence and degree of vasospasm, which was quantified in the anteroposterior (AP) projection by computerized image analysis. On Day 7, cortical cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the distribution of the right MCA was measured during four to six runs in the right internal carotid artery (ICA) of brief infusions of saline followed by NO solution. Arteriography was performed immediately after completing the final NO infusion in three of the four animals with vasospasm. Right MCA blood flow velocities were obtained using transcranial Doppler before, during, and after NO infusion in two vasospastic animals.

After ICA NO infusion, arteriographic vasospasm resolved (mean percent of preoperative AP area, 55.9%); that is, the AP areas of the proximal portion of the right MCA returned to their preoperative values (mean 91.4%; range 88%–96%). Compared to ICA saline, during ICA NO infusion CBF increased 7% in control animals and 19% in vasospastic animals (p < 0.002) without significant changes in other physiological parameters. During NO infusion, peak systolic right MCA CBF velocity decreased (130 to 109 cm/sec and 116 to 76 cm/sec) in two vasospastic animals. The effects of ICA NO on CBF and CBF velocity disappeared shortly after terminating NO infusion.

Intracarotid infusion of NO in a primate model of vasospasm 1) increases CBF, 2) decreases cerebral vascular resistance, 3) reverses arteriographic vasospasm, and 4) decreases CBF velocity in the vasospastic artery without producing systemic hypotension. These findings indicate the potential for the development of targeted therapy to reverse cerebral vasospasm after SAH.

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John K. B. Afshar, John L. Doppman and Edward H. Oldfield

✓ To establish if interruption of the intradural draining spinal vein or surgical excision are curative treatments for spinal dural arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs), the medical records and radiographic studies of 19 patients with spinal dural AVFs and progressive myelopathy were reviewed. Spinal arteriograms were obtained before and within 2 weeks after surgery in 19 patients, and after a delay of 4 months or more in 11 patients. The mean clinical and arteriographic follow up was at 37 and 35 months, respectively. In the 11 patients who underwent excision of the dural AVF there was no evidence of a residual lesion upon immediate or delayed postoperative arteriography. Surgery in eight patients consisted of simple interruption of the intradural draining vein as it entered the subarachnoid space. In six of these patients the vein draining the AVF intrathecally provided the only venous drainage of the AVF. In these six patients there was no immediate (six of six) or delayed (four of six) arteriographic evidence of residual or recurrent flow through the AVF. Two patients had an AVF with both intra- and extradural venous drainage; after intradural division of the draining vein there was residual flow through the AVF into the extradural venous system. In one of these two patients intrathecal venous drainage was reestablished, which required additional therapy. In the other patient the extradural AVF spontaneously thrombosed and was not evident on delayed follow-up arteriography.

In patients with spinal dural AVFs with only intrathecal medullary venous drainage, which includes most patients with these lesions, surgical interruption of the intradural draining vein provides lasting and curative treatment. In patients with both intra- and extradural drainage of the AVF, complete excision of the fistula or interruption of the intra- and extradural venous drainage of the fistula is indicated. In patients in whom a common vessel supplies the spinal cord and the dural AVF, simple surgical interruption of the vein draining the AVF is the treatment of choice, as it provides lasting obliteration of the fistula and it is the only treatment that does not risk arterial occlusion and cord infarction. Simple interruption of the venous drainage of a spinal dural AVF provides lasting occlusion of the fistula, as it does for cranial dural AVFs, if all pathways of venous drainage are interrupted. This result provides further evidence that the venous approach to the treatment of dural AVFs can be used successfully.