Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH) accounts for a relatively small portion of strokes but has the potential to cause permanent neurological deficits. Vasospasm with delayed ischemic neurological deficit is thought to be responsible for much of the morbidity associated with aSAH. This has illuminated some treatment options that have the potential to target specific components of the vasospasm cascade. Intrathecal management via lumbar drain (LD) or external ventricular drain (EVD) offers unique advantages in this patient population. The aim of this review was to provide an update on intrathecal vasospasm treatments, emphasizing the need for larger-scale trials and updated protocols using data-driven evidence.
A search of PubMed, Ovid MEDLINE, and Cochrane databases included the search terms (subarachnoid hemorrhage) AND (vasospasm OR delayed cerebral ischemia) AND (intrathecal OR intraventricular OR lumbar drain OR lumbar catheter) for 2010 to the present. Next, a meta-analysis was performed of select therapeutic regimens. The primary endpoints of analysis were vasospasm, delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI), cerebral infarction, and functional outcome.
Twenty-nine studies were included in the analysis. There were 10 studies in which CSF drainage was the primary experimental group. Calcium channel antagonists were the focus of 7 studies. Fibrinolytics and other vasodilators were each examined in 6 studies. The meta-analysis included studies examining CSF drainage via LD (n = 4), tissue plasminogen activator in addition to EVD (n = 3), intraventricular nimodipine (n = 2), and cisternal magnesium (n = 2). Results showed that intraventricular nimodipine decreased vasospasm (OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.37–0.94; p = 0.03). Therapies that significantly reduced DCI were CSF drainage via LD (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.25–0.88; p = 0.02) and cisternal magnesium (OR 0.27, 95% CI 0.07–1.02; p = 0.05). CSF drainage via LD was also found to significantly reduce the incidence of cerebral infarction (OR 0.35, 95% 0.24–0.51; p < 0.001). Lastly, functional outcome was significantly better in patients who received CSF drainage via LD (OR 2.42, 95% CI 1.39–4.21; p = 0.002).
The authors’ results showed that intrathecal therapy is a safe and feasible option following aSAH. It has been shown to attenuate cerebral vasospasm, reduce the incidence of DCI, and improve clinical outcome. The authors support the use of intrathecal management in the prevention and rescue management of cerebral vasospasm. More randomized controlled trials are warranted to determine the best combination of pharmaceutical agents and administration route in order to formulate a standardized treatment approach.