Although cigarette smoking is one of the strongest risk factors for cerebral aneurysm development and rupture, there are limited data evaluating the impact of smoking on outcomes after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Additionally, two recent studies suggested that nicotine replacement therapy was associated with improved neurological outcomes among smokers who had sustained an SAH compared with smokers who did not receive nicotine.
Patients who underwent endovascular or microsurgical repair of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm were extracted from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS, 2009–2011) and stratified by cigarette smoking. Multivariable logistic regression analyzed in-hospital mortality, complications, tracheostomy or gastrostomy placement, and discharge to institutional care (a nursing or an extended care facility). Additionally, the composite NIS-SAH outcome measure (based on mortality, tracheostomy or gastrostomy, and discharge disposition) was evaluated, which has been shown to have excellent agreement with a modified Rankin Scale score greater than 3. Covariates included in regression constructs were patient age, sex, race/ethnicity, insurance status, socioeconomic status, comorbidities (including hypertension, drug and alcohol abuse), the NIS-SAH severity scale (previously validated against the Hunt and Hess grade), treatment modality used for aneurysm repair, and hospital characteristics. A sensitivity analysis was performed matching smokers to nonsmokers on age, sex, number of comorbidities, and NIS-SAH severity scale score.
Among the 5784 admissions evaluated, 37.1% (n = 2148) had a diagnosis of tobacco use, of which 31.1% (n = 1800) were current and 6.0% (n = 348) prior tobacco users. Smokers were significantly younger (mean age 51.4 vs 56.2 years) and had more comorbidities compared with nonsmokers (p < 0.001). There were no significant differences in mortality, total complications, or neurological complications by smoking status. However, compared with nonsmokers, smokers had significantly decreased adjusted odds of tracheostomy or gastrostomy placement (11.9% vs 22.7%, odds ratio [OR] 0.63, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.51–0.78, p < 0.001), discharge to institutional care (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.57–0.89, p = 0.002), and a poor outcome (OR 0.65, 95% CI 0.55–0.77, p < 0.001). Similar statistical associations were noted in the matched-pairs sensitivity analysis and in a subgroup of poor-grade patients (the upper quartile of the NIS-SAH severity scale).
In this nationwide study, smokers experienced SAH at a younger age and had a greater number of comorbidities compared with nonsmokers, highlighting the negative ramifications of cigarette smoking among patients with cerebral aneurysms. However, smoking was also associated with paradoxical superior outcomes on some measures, and future research to confirm and further understand the basis of this relationship is needed.