The authors report the 6-year results of the Barrow Ruptured Aneurysm Trial (BRAT). This ongoing randomized trial, with the final goal of a 10-year follow-up, compares the safety and efficacy of surgical clip occlusion and endovascular coil embolization in patients presenting with subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) from a ruptured aneurysm. The 1- and 3-year results of this trial have been previously reported.
In total, 500 patients with an SAH met the entry criteria and were enrolled in the study. Of these patients, 471 were randomly assigned to the treatments: 238 to surgical clipping and 233 to endovascular coiling. Six patients who died before treatment and 57 patients with nonaneurysmal SAHs were excluded, leaving a total of 408 patients who underwent clipping (209 assigned) or coiling (199 assigned). Whether to treat patients within the assigned group or to cross over patients to the other group was at the discretion of the treating physician; 38% (75/199) of the patients assigned to coiling were crossed over to clipping and 1.9% (4/209) assigned to clipping were crossed over to coiling. The outcome data were collected by a dedicated nurse practitioner. The primary outcome analysis was based on the assigned treatment group; poor outcome was defined as a modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score > 2 and was independently adjudicated. Six years after randomization, 336 (82%) of 408 patients who had been treated were available for examination.
On the basis of an mRS score of > 2, and similar to the results at the 3-year follow-up, no significant difference in outcomes (p = 0.24) was detected between the 2 treatment groups. Complete aneurysm obliteration at 6 years was achieved in 96% (111/116) of the clipping group and in 48% (23/48) of the coiling group (p < 0.0001). In the period between the 3- and 6-year follow-ups, 3 additional patients assigned to coiling and none assigned to clipping received retreatment, for overall retreatment rates of 4.6% (13/280) for clipping and 16.4% (21/128) for coiling (p < 0.0001).
When aneurysm location was considered, the 6-year results continued to match the previously reported results, with no difference in outcome for anterior circulation aneurysms at most time points. Of the anterior circulation aneurysms assigned to coiling treatment, 42% (70/168) were crossed over to clipping treatment. The outcomes for posterior circulation aneurysms continued to favor coiling. The randomization process was unexpectedly skewed, with 18 of 21 treated aneurysms of the posterior inferior cerebellar artery (PICA) being assigned to clipping, but even when PICA aneurysms were removed from the analysis, outcomes for the posterior circulation aneurysms still favored coiling.
Although BRAT was statistically underpowered to detect small differences, these results suggest little difference in outcome between the 2 treatments for anterior circulation aneurysms. This was not the case for the posterior circulation aneurysms, where coil embolization appeared to provide a sustained advantage over clipping. Aneurysm obliteration rates in BRAT were significantly lower and retreatment rates significantly higher in the patients undergoing coiling than in those undergoing clipping. However, despite the fact that retreatment rates were higher after coiling, no recurrent hemorrhages were known to have occurred in patients undergoing coiling in BRAT who were followed up for 6 years. Sufficient questions remain about the relative benefits of the 2 treatment modalities to warrant further well-designed randomized trials.