Object. Differentiating myocardial infarction (MI) from reversible neurogenic left ventricular dysfunction (stunned myocardium [SM]) associated with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is critical for early surgical intervention. The authors hypothesized that the cardiac troponin (cTn) trend and/or echocardiogram could be used to differentiate between the two entities.
Methods. A retrospective study was conducted for the period between 1995 and 2000. All patients included in the study met the following criteria: 1) no history of cardiac problems; 2) new onset of abnormal cardiac function (ejection fraction [EF] < 40% on echocardiograms); 3) serial cardiac markers (cTn and creatine kinase MB isoform [CK-MB]); 4) surgical intervention for their aneurysm; and 5) cardiac output monitoring either by repeated echocardiograms or invasive hemodynamic monitoring during the first 4 days post-SAH when the patients were euvolemic.
Of the 350 patients with SAH, 10 (2.9%) had severe cardiac dysfunction. Of those 10, six were women and four were men. The patients' mean age was 53.5 years (range 29–75 years) and their SAH was classified as Hunt and Hess Grade III or IV. Aneurysm distribution was as follows: basilar artery tip (four); anterior communicating artery (two); middle cerebral artery (one); posterior communicating artery (two); and posterior inferior cerebellar artery (one). The mean EF at onset was 33%. The changes on echocardiograms in these patients did not match the findings on electrocardiograms (EKGs). Within 4.5 days, dramatic improvement was seen in cardiac output (from 4.93 ± 1.16 L/minute to 7.74 ± 0.88 L/minute). Compared with historical controls in whom there were similar levels of left ventricular dysfunction after MI, there was no difference in peak CK-MB. A 10-fold difference, however, was noted in cTn values (0.22 ± 0.25 ng/ml; control 2.8 ng/ml; p < 0.001).
Conclusions. The authors determined the following: 1) that the CK-MB trend does not allow differentiation between SM and MI; 2) that echocardiograms revealing significant inconsistencies with EKGs are indicative of SM; and 3) that cTn values less than 2.8 ng/ml in patients with EFs less than 40% are consistent with SM.