Blood transfusion and increased risk for vasospasm and poor outcome after subarachnoid hemorrhage

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Object. Nitric oxide (NO) metabolism may influence vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). It has been demonstrated in recent studies that erythrocytes carry NO for release in vessels, whereas transfused erythrocytes may lack stored NO. Several converging lines of evidence also indicate that blood transfusion may exacerbate poor outcomes in some critically ill patients. In this study the authors hypothesized that patients with SAH who received red blood cell (RBC) transfusions were at greater risk for vasospasm and poor outcome.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed a prospective observational database, including hospital records, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and pre- and postoperative four-vessel angiograms, in which the management methods used in 441 patients undergoing surgery for ruptured cerebral aneurysms were described. Two hundred seventy patients (61.2%) received an RBC transfusion during their hospital stay. After adjustment for Hunt and Hess grade, SAH grade on CT scans, delay between rupture and surgery, smoking status, and intraoperative aneurysm rupture, a worse outcome was more likely in patients who received intraoperative blood (odds ratio [OR] 2.44, confidence interval [CI] 1.32–4.52; 120 patients). Intraoperative RBC transfusion did not influence subsequent angiographically confirmed vasospasm (OR 0.92, CI 0.6–1.4). Worse outcome was observed in patients who received blood postoperatively (OR 1.81, CI 1.21–2.7), but not after adjustments were made for confounding variables (OR 1.48, CI 0.83–2.63). Angiographic vasospasm was observed in 217 patients and, after adjusting for confounding variables, was more frequent among patients who received postoperative RBC transfusion (OR 1.68, CI 1.02–2.75). Among patients in whom angiographically confirmed vasospasm developed there was a tendency to have received more blood than in those with no vasospasm; however, a clear dose-dependent response was not observed.

Conclusions. Development of angiographically confirmed vasospasm after SAH is associated with postoperative RBC transfusion and worse outcome is associated with intraoperative RBC transfusion. Before blood is transfused, patients with SAH should be carefully assessed to determine if they are symptomatic because of anemia.

Article Information

Address reprint requests to: Peter D. Le Roux, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pennsylvania, 330 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19107. email: lerouxp@uphs.upenn.edu.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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Figures

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    Histogram illustrating the relationship between symptomatic vasospasm and the degree of angiographically confirmed vasospasm. Among patients with symptomatic vasospasm, severe arterial narrowing was frequently identified on angiograms. By contrast, mild angiographic vasospasm was common in patients who were asymptomatic.

  • View in gallery

    Histogram illustrating the relationship between angiographically confirmed vasospasm and blood transfusion. Moderate or severe angiographic vasospasm was more likely in patients who received a postoperative blood transfusion. By contrast, no or mild angiographic vasospasm was more frequent in patients who did not receive blood.

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