✓ The authors tested the null hypothesis that published literature with a high level of evidence does not support the assertion that subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) causes cerebral vasospasm, which in turn causes cerebral infarction and poor outcome after aneurysmal SAH. The medical literature on SAH was searched in MEDLINE. The author's personal files of all published literature on SAH were reviewed. References cited in Cochrane reviews as well as the published papers that were reviewed were also retrieved.
There is no question that SAH causes what the authors have chosen to call “angiographic vasospasm.” However, the incidence and severity of vasospasm in recent series of patients is not well defined. There is reasonable evidence that vasospasm causes infarction, but again, accurate data on how severe and how diffuse vasospasm has to be to cause infarction and how often vasospasm is the primary cause of infarction are not available. There are good data on the incidence of cerebral infarction after SAH, and these data indicate that it is highly associated with poor outcome. The link between angiographic vasospasm and poor outcome is particularly poorly described in terms of what would be considered data of a high level of evidence.
The question as to whether there is a clear pathway from SAH to vasospasm to cerebral infarction to poor outcome seems so obvious to neurosurgeons as to make it one not worth asking. Nevertheless, the obvious is not always true or accurate, so it is important to note that published literature only weakly supports the causative association of vasospasm with infarction and poor outcome after SAH. It behooves neurosurgeons to document this seemingly straightforward pathway with high-quality evidence acceptable to the proponents of evidence-based medicine.