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Timing of surgery for supratentorial aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage: report of a prospective study
  1. N Ross,
  2. P J Hutchinson,
  3. H Seeley,
  4. P J Kirkpatrick
  1. University Department of Neurosurgery, Box 167, Block A, Level 4, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P J Kirkpatrick, University Department of Neurosurgery, Box 167, Block A, Level 4, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK;


Objectives: The debate on the timing of aneurysm surgery after subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) pivots on the balance of the temporal risk for fatal rebleeding versus the risk of surgical morbidity when operating early on an acutely injured brain. By following a strict management protocol for SAH, the hypothesis has been tested that in the modern arena of treatment for aneurysmal SAH the timing of surgery to secure supratentorial aneurysms does not affect surgical outcome.

Methods: Over a 6 year period, patients admitted with a diagnosis of SAH to a regional neurosurgical unit have been prospectively studied. All have been on a management protocol in which early transfer and resuscitation has been followed regardless of age and clinical condition. Angiographic investigation and surgery have been pursued in those who have been able to at least flex to pain. A total of 1168 patients (60.7% female, mean age 54.3) with proved SAH were received on median day 1 (86.4% arrived within 3 days) of the ictus. Of these, 784 (67.1%) showed aneurysms on angiography and were prepared for surgery. Those who received surgery for a supratentorial aneurysm within 21 days of the ictus were included in the final analysis (n=550). Patients with an initial negative angiogram, with posterior circulation aneurysms, or aneurysms treated by endovascular means, with aneurysms requiring emergency surgery for space occupying haematomas, with aneurysms which re-bled before surgery, and those who received very late surgery (after 21 days from ictus) were excluded. Surgical outcomes at hospital discharge and after 6 months were assessed using the Glasgow outcome score (GOS). Discharge destination and duration of stay in a neurosurgical ward were also documented. The influence of the timing of surgery (early group day 1–3 postictus, intermediate group day 4–10, or late group day 11–21) was analysed prospectively.

Results: 60.2% of cases fell into the early surgery group, 32.4% into the intermediate group, and 7.5% into the late operated group. Late surgery was due to delays in diagnosis, transfer, and logistic factors, but not clinical decision. The demographic characteristics, site of aneurysm, and clinical condition of the patients at the time of initial medical assessment were balanced in the three surgical timing groups. There was no significant difference in GOS between the surgical timing groups at 6 months (favourable GOS score 4 and 5: 83.2%, 80.5%, and 83.8% respectively; p=0.47, Kruskal-Wallis test). Outcome was favourable in 84% of patients under 65 years, and 70% in those over 65. The discharge destinations (home, referring hospital, nursing home, rehabilitation centre) showed no significant difference between surgical timing groups. There was no significant difference in mean time to discharge after admission to this hospital from the referring hospital (16.2, 16.2, and 14.6 days for early, intermediate, and late groups respectively; p=0.789, Analysis of variance (ANOVA)). As a result, there was reduction in the mean duration of total hospital inpatient stay in favour of the earliest operated patients (mean time 18.1, 22.0, and 28.3 days respectively; p=0.001. ANOVA showed that besides age, the only determinant of surgical outcome and duration of stay was presenting clinical grade (p<0.0005).

Conclusion: The current management of patients presenting with SAH from anterior circulation aneurysms allows early surgery to be followed safely regardless of age. The only independent variables affecting outcome are age and clinical grade at presentation. The timing of surgery did not significantly affect surgical outcome, promoting a policy for early surgery that avoids the known risks of rebleeding and reduces inpatient stay.

  • Subarachnoid haemorrhage
  • stroke
  • SAH, subarachnoid haemorrhage
  • GOS, Glasgow outcome score
  • WFNS, World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies
  • DSA, digital subtraction angiography

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