OBJECT: The past 30 years have seen a shift in the timing of surgery for aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Earlier practices of delayed surgery that were intended to avoid less favorable surgical conditions have been replaced by a trend toward early surgery to minimize the risks associated with rebleeding and vasospasm. Yet, a consensus as to the optimal timing of surgery has not been reached. The authors hypothesized that earlier surgery, performed using contemporary neurosurgical and neuroanesthesia techniques, would be associated with better outcomes when using contemporary management practices, and sought to define the optimal time interval between SAH and surgery.
METHODS: Data collected as part of the Intraoperative Hypothermia for Aneurysm Surgery Trial (IHAST) were analyzed to investigate the relationship between timing of surgery and outcome at 3 months post-SAH. The IHAST enrolled 1001 patients in 30 neurosurgical centers between February 2000 and April 2003. All patients had a radiographically confirmed SAH, were World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies Grades I-III at the time of surgery, and underwent surgical clipping of the presumed culprit aneurysm within 14 days of the date of hemorrhage. Patients were seen at 90-day follow-up visits. The primary outcome variable was a Glasgow Outcome Scale score of 1 (good outcome). Intergroup differences in baseline, intraoperative, and postoperative variables were compared using the Fisher exact tests. Variables reported as means were compared with ANOVA. Multiple logistic regression was used for multivariate analysis, adjusting for covariates. A p value of less than 0.05 was considered to be significant.
RESULTS: Patients who underwent surgery on Days 1 or 2 (early) or Days 7-14 (late) (Day 0 = date of SAH) fared better than patients who underwent surgery on Days 3-6 (intermediate). Specifically, the worst outcomes were observed in patients who underwent surgery on Days 3 and 4. Patients who had hydrocephalus or Fisher Grade 3 or 4 on admission head CT scans had better outcomes with early surgery than with intermediate or late surgery.
CONCLUSIONS: Early surgery, in good-grade patients within 48 hours of SAH, is associated with better outcomes than surgery performed in the 3- to 6-day posthemorrhage interval. Surgical treatment for aneurysmal SAH may be more hazardous during the 3- to 6-day interval, but this should be weighed against the risk of rebleeding.