OBJECT: Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) results in significant morbidity and mortality, even among patients who reach medical attention in good neurological condition. Many patients have neurological decline in the perioperative period, which contributes to long-term outcomes. The focus of this study is to characterize the incidence of, characteristics predictive of, and outcomes associated with acute postoperative neurological deterioration in patients undergoing surgery for ruptured intracranial aneurysm.
METHODS: The Intraoperative Hypothermia for Aneurysm Surgery Trial (IHAST) was a multicenter randomized clinical trial that enrolled 1001 patients and assesssed the efficacy of hypothermia as neuroprotection during surgery to secure a ruptured intracranial aneurysm. All patients had a radiographically confirmed SAH, were classified as World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS) Grade I-III immediately prior to surgery, and underwent surgery to secure the ruptured aneurysm within 14 days of SAH. Neurological assessment with the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) was performed preoperatively, at 24 and 72 hours postoperatively, and at time of discharge. The primary outcome variable was a dichotomized scoring based on an IHAST version of the Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) in which a score of 1 represents a good outcome and a score > 1 a poor outcome, as assessed at 90-days' follow-up. Data from IHAST were analyzed for occurrence of a postoperative neurological deterioration. Preoperative and intraoperative variables were assessed for associations with occurrence of postoperative neurological deterioration. Differences in baseline, intraoperative, and postoperative variables and in outcomes between patients with and without postoperative neurological deterioration were compared with Fisher exact tests. The Wilcoxon rank-sum test was used to compare variables reported as means. Multiple logistic regression was used to adjust for covariates associated with occurrence of postoperative deficit.
RESULTS: Acute postoperative neurological deterioration was observed in 42.6% of the patients. New focal motor deficit accounted for 65% of postoperative neurological deterioration, while 60% was accounted for using the NIHSS total score change and 51% by Glasgow Coma Scale score change. Factors significantly associated with occurrence of postoperative neurological deterioration included: age, Fisher grade on admission, occurrence of a procedure prior to aneurysm surgery (ventriculostomy), timing of surgery, systolic blood pressure during surgery, ST segment depression during surgery, history of abnormality in cardiac valve function, use of intentional hypotension during surgery, duration of anterior cerebral artery occlusion, intraoperative blood loss, and difficulty of aneurysm exposure. Of the 426 patients with postoperative neurological deterioration at 24 hours after surgery, only 46.2% had a good outcome (GOS score of 1) at 3 months, while 77.7% of those without postoperative neurological deterioration at 24 hours had a good outcome (p < 0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Neurological injury incurred perioperatively or in the acute postoperative period accounts for a large percentage of poor outcomes in patients with good admission WFNS grades undergoing surgery for aneurysmal SAH. Avoiding surgical factors associated with postoperative neurological deterioration and directing investigative efforts at developing improved neuroprotection for use in aneurysm surgery may significantly improve long-term neurological outcomes in patients with SAH.