In patients presenting within 6 hours after signs and symptoms of suspected subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), CSF examination is judged to be no longer necessary if a noncontrast CT (NCCT) scan rules out SAH. In this study, the authors evaluated the performance of NCCT to rule out SAH in patients with positive CSF findings.
Between January 2006 and April 2018, 1657 patients were admitted with a nontraumatic SAH. Of these patients, 1546 had positive SAH findings on the initial NCCT and 111 patients had an NCCT scan that was reported as negative in the acute setting, but with positive CSF examination for subarachnoid blood. Demographic data, World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies grade, and SAH time points (ictus, time of NCCT, and time of lumbar puncture) were collected. All 111 NCCT scans were reevaluated by an experienced neuroradiologist.
Of the 111 patients with positive CSF findings, SAH was initially missed on NCCT in 25 patients (23%). Reevaluation of 21 patients presenting within 6 hours of symptom onset confirmed NCCT negative findings in 12 (5 aneurysms), an aneurysmal SAH (aSAH) pattern in 8 (7 aneurysms), and a perimesencephalic pattern in 1 patient. Reevaluation of 90 patients presenting after 6 hours confirmed negative NCCT findings in 74 patients (37 aneurysms), aSAH pattern in 10 (4 aneurysms), and a perimesencephalic pattern in 6 (2 aneurysms).
CSF examination is still mandatory to rule out SAH as NCCT can fail to show blood, even within 6 hours after symptom onset. In addition, the diagnosis SAH was frequently missed during initial reporting.