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Ofer Sadan, Hannah Waddel, Reneé Moore, Chen Feng, Yajun Mei, David Pearce, Jacqueline Kraft, Cederic Pimentel, Subin Mathew, Feras Akbik, Pouya Ameli, Alexis Taylor, Lisa Danyluk, Kathleen S. Martin, Krista Garner, Jennifer Kolenda, Amit Pujari, William Asbury, Blessing N. R. Jaja, R. Loch Macdonald, C. Michael Cawley, Daniel L. Barrow, and Owen Samuels


Cerebral vasospasm and delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI) contribute to poor outcome following subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). With the paucity of effective treatments, the authors describe their experience with intrathecal (IT) nicardipine for this indication.


Patients admitted to the Emory University Hospital neuroscience ICU between 2012 and 2017 with nontraumatic SAH, either aneurysmal or idiopathic, were included in the analysis. Using a propensity-score model, this patient cohort was compared to patients in the Subarachnoid Hemorrhage International Trialists (SAHIT) repository who did not receive IT nicardipine. The primary outcome was DCI. Secondary outcomes were long-term functional outcome and adverse events.


The analysis included 1351 patients, 422 of whom were diagnosed with cerebral vasospasm and treated with IT nicardipine. When compared with patients with no vasospasm (n = 859), the treated group was significantly younger (mean age 51.1 ± 12.4 years vs 56.7 ± 14.1 years, p < 0.001), had a higher World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies score and modified Fisher grade, and were more likely to undergo clipping of the ruptured aneurysm as compared to endovascular treatment (30.3% vs 11.3%, p < 0.001). Treatment with IT nicardipine decreased the daily mean transcranial Doppler velocities in 77.3% of the treated patients. When compared to patients not receiving IT nicardipine, treatment was not associated with an increased rate of bacterial ventriculitis (3.1% vs 2.7%, p > 0.1), yet higher rates of ventriculoperitoneal shunting were noted (19.9% vs 8.8%, p < 0.01). In a propensity score comparison to the SAHIT database, the odds ratio (OR) to develop DCI with IT nicardipine treatment was 0.61 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.44–0.84), and the OR to have a favorable functional outcome (modified Rankin Scale score ≤ 2) was 2.17 (95% CI 1.61–2.91).


IT nicardipine was associated with improved outcome and reduced DCI compared with propensity-matched controls. There was an increased need for permanent CSF diversion but no other safety issues. These data should be considered when selecting medications and treatments to study in future randomized controlled clinical trials for SAH.