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Acad Emerg Med. 2006 May;13(5):486-92. Epub 2006 Mar 21.

Computed tomographic angiography for the evaluation of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Naval Medical Center San Diego, San Diego, CA 92134-5000, USA.



Computed tomography (CT) followed by lumbar puncture (LP) is currently the criterion standard for diagnosing subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) in the emergency department (ED); however, this is based on studies involving a limited number of patients. The authors sought to assess the ability of CT angiography (CTA), a new diagnostic modality, in conjunction with CT/LP to detect SAH.


Consecutive patients presenting to the ED with symptoms concerning for SAH were approached. All patients had an intravenous catheter placed and underwent a noncontrast head CT followed by CTA. Patients whose CT did not reveal evidence of SAH or other pathology underwent LP in the ED. CTAs were read within 24 hours by a neuroradiologist blinded to the patient's history.


A total of 131 patients were approached, 116 were enrolled, and 106 completed the study. In six of 116 patients (5.1%), aneurysm was found on CTA with normal CT and positive findings on LP; three had a positive CTA with normal CT and LP findings (one of which had a negative cerebral angiogram), and there was one false-positive CTA. Follow-up of all 131 patients showed no previously undiagnosed intracranial pathology. In this patient population, 4.3% (5/116) were ultimately found to have an SAH and/or aneurysm.


In this pilot study, CTA was found to be useful in the detection of cerebral aneurysms and may be useful in the diagnosis of aneurysmal SAH. A larger multicenter study would be useful to confirm these results.

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