Plasma endothelin concentrations after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage

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Object. The pathogenesis of cerebral vasospasm and delayed ischemia after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) seems to be complex. An important mediator of chronic vasospasm may be endothelin (ET), with its powerful and long-lasting vasoconstricting activity. In this study the author investigated the correlation between serial plasma concentrations of ET and ischemic symptoms, angiographically demonstrated evidence of vasospasm, and computerized tomography (CT) findings after aneurysmal SAH.

Methods. Endothelin-1 immunoreactivity in plasma was studied in 70 patients with aneurysmal SAH and in 25 healthy volunteers by using a double-antibody sandwich-enzyme immunoassay (immunometric) technique.

On the whole, mean plasma ET concentrations in patients with SAH (mean ± standard error of mean, 2.1 ± 0.1 pg/ml) did not differ from those of healthy volunteers (1.9 ± 0.2 pg/ml). Endothelin concentrations were significantly higher (p < 0.05) in patients who experienced delayed cerebral ischemia with fixed neurological deficits compared with those in other patients (post-SAH Days 0–5, 3.1 ± 0.8 pg/ml compared with 2.1 ± 0.2 pg/ml; post-SAH Days 6–14, 2.5 ± 0.4 pg/ml compared with 1.9 ± 0.2 pg/ml). Patients with angiographic evidence of severe vasospasm also had significantly (p < 0.05) elevated ET concentrations (post-SAH Days 0–5, 3.2 ± 0.8 pg/ml; post-SAH Days 6–14, 2.7 ± 0.5 pg/ml) as did those with a cerebral infarction larger than a lacuna on the follow-up CT scan (post-SAH Days 0–5, 3.1 ± 0.8 pg/ml; post-SAH Days 6–14, 2.5 ± 0.4 pg/ml) compared with other patients. Patients in whom angiography revealed diffuse moderate-to-severe vasospasm had significantly (p < 0.05) higher ET levels than other patients within 24 hours before or after angiography (2.6 ± 0.3 compared with 1.9 ± 0.2 pg/ml). In addition, patients with a history of hypertension or cigarette smoking experienced cerebral infarctions significantly more often than other patients, although angiography did not demonstrate severe or diffuse vasospasm more often in these patients than in others.

Conclusions. Endothelin concentrations seem to correlate with delayed cerebral ischemia and vasospasm after SAH. The highest levels of ET are predictive of the symptoms of cerebral ischemia and vasospasm, and ET may also worsen ischemia in patients with a history of hypertension. Thus, ET may be an important causal or contributing factor to vasospasm, but its significance in the pathogenesis of vasospasm remains unknown.

Article Information

Address reprint requests to: Seppo Juvela, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Topeliuksenkatu 5, FIN-00260, Helsinki 26, Finland. email:

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