Early and aggressive treatment of medically intractable cerebral vasospasm with pentobarbital coma, cerebral angioplasty and ICP reduction

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  • Division of Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventional Neuroradiology, Department of Neurosurgery, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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The authors present the unique experience of one neurovascular service under the direct supervision of the senior author, for which surgical, endovascular, and intensive care treatments were conducted in a select group of 32 patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage who had medically intractable symptomatic vasospasm.

A protocol of early and aggressive treatment was instituted using pentobarbital coma, cerebral angioplasty, and intracranial pressure (ICP) reduction. The patient population consisted of 25 women and seven men, whose ages ranged from 34 to 60 years (average 47 years). The patients' Hunt and Hess grades on presentation were as follows: Grade 0 (one); Grade I (three); Grade II (two); Grade III (nine); Grade IV (10); Grade V (seven). Microsurgical clipping alone was performed in 15 of 32 patients, endosaccular occlusion was performed in 17 of 20 patients, and two patients underwent combined treatment. Subsequent angioplasty was performed in 26 of 32 patients. Additionally, all 32 patients underwent treatment of increased ICP with ventriculostomy placement, removal of the bone flap (11), evacuation of associated intracranial hematoma (five), and decompressive obectomy (four).

Twenty-one patients survived and 11 died. Of the 21 survivors, seven have returned to work, live independently, and have no neurological deficits; eight require minimal assistance at home; four are in rehabilitation with moderate deficits at 3 months; and two remain in a persistent vegetative state.

In this group of aggressively treated patients who received pentobarbital cerebral protection, successful treatment of medically intractable cerebral vasospasm was related to time of treatment (< 2 hours), expeditious reduction of elevated ICP, and angioplasty.

The authors present the unique experience of one neurovascular service under the direct supervision of the senior author, for which surgical, endovascular, and intensive care treatments were conducted in a select group of 32 patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage who had medically intractable symptomatic vasospasm.

A protocol of early and aggressive treatment was instituted using pentobarbital coma, cerebral angioplasty, and intracranial pressure (ICP) reduction. The patient population consisted of 25 women and seven men, whose ages ranged from 34 to 60 years (average 47 years). The patients' Hunt and Hess grades on presentation were as follows: Grade 0 (one); Grade I (three); Grade II (two); Grade III (nine); Grade IV (10); Grade V (seven). Microsurgical clipping alone was performed in 15 of 32 patients, endosaccular occlusion was performed in 17 of 20 patients, and two patients underwent combined treatment. Subsequent angioplasty was performed in 26 of 32 patients. Additionally, all 32 patients underwent treatment of increased ICP with ventriculostomy placement, removal of the bone flap (11), evacuation of associated intracranial hematoma (five), and decompressive obectomy (four).

Twenty-one patients survived and 11 died. Of the 21 survivors, seven have returned to work, live independently, and have no neurological deficits; eight require minimal assistance at home; four are in rehabilitation with moderate deficits at 3 months; and two remain in a persistent vegetative state.

In this group of aggressively treated patients who received pentobarbital cerebral protection, successful treatment of medically intractable cerebral vasospasm was related to time of treatment (< 2 hours), expeditious reduction of elevated ICP, and angioplasty.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Robert H. Rosenwasser, M.D., 834 Walnut Street, Suite 650, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107.

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