Age and outcome after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage: why do older patients fare worse?

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✓ Advanced age is a recognized prognostic indicator of poor outcome after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). The relationship of age to other prognostic factors and outcome was evaluated using data from the multicenter randomized trial of nicardipine in SAH conducted in 21 neurosurgical centers in North America. Among the 906 patients who were studied, five different age groups were considered: 40 years or less, 41 to 50, 51 to 60, 61 to 70, and more than 71 years. Twenty-three percent of the individuals enrolled were older than 60 years of age. Women outnumbered men in all age groups.

Level of consciousness (p = 0.0002) and World Federation of Neurological Surgeons grade (p = 0.0001) at admission worsened with advancing age. Age was also related to the presence of a thick subarachnoid clot (p = 0.0001), intraventricular hemorrhage (p = 0.0003), and hydrocephalus (p = 0.0001) on an admission computerized tomography scan. The rebleeding rate increased from 4.5% in the youngest age group to 16.4% in patients more than 70 years of age (p = 0.002). As expected, preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes (p = 0.028), hypertension (p = 0.0001), and pulmonary (p = 0.0084), myocardial (p = 0.0001), and cerebrovascular diseases (p = 0.0001), were positively associated with age. There were no age-related differences in the day of admission following SAH, timing of the surgery and/or location, and size (small vs. large) of the ruptured aneurysm.

During the treatment period, the incidence of severe complications (that is, those complications considered life threatening by the reporting investigator) increased with advancing age, occurring in 28%, 33%, 36%, 40%, and 46% of the patients in each advancing age group, respectively (p = 0.0002). No differences were observed in the reported frequency of surgical complications. No age-related differences were found in the overall incidence of angiographic vasospasm; however, symptomatic vasospasm was more frequently reported in the older age groups (p = 0.01). Overall outcome, assessed using the Glasgow Outcome Scale at 3 months post-SAH, was poorer with advancing age (p < 0.001). Multivariate analysis of overall outcome, adjusting for the different prognostic factors, did not remove the age effect, which suggests that the aging brain has a less optimal response to the initial bleeding. Age as a risk factor is a continuum; however, there seems to be a significant increased risk of poor outcome after the age of 60 years.

Article Information

Address reprint requests to: Giuseppe Lanzino, M.D., Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Box 212, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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Figures

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    Bar graph showing distribution by age and sex in patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage.

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    Graph displaying the values of systolic blood pressure stratified by age on day of admission in patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. Significance is determined at p = 0.0001 (regression with age as continuous).

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