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J Neurosci Res. 2009 Jan;87(1):1-11. doi: 10.1002/jnr.21823.

Pathogenesis of cerebral vasospasm following aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage: putative mechanisms and novel approaches.

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Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


Cerebral vasospasm is a potentially incapacitating or lethal complication in patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). The development of effective preventative and therapeutic interventions has been largely hindered by the fact that the underlying pathogenic mechanisms of cerebral vasospasm remain poorly understood. However, intensive research during the last 3 decades has identified certain mechanisms that possibly play a role in its development. Experimental data suggest that calcium-dependent and -independent vasoconstriction is taking place during vasospasm. It appears that the breakdown products of blood in the subarachnoid space are involved, through direct and/or indirect pathways, in the development of vasospasm after SAH. Free radicals reactions, an imbalance between vasoconstrictor and vasodilator substances (endothelium derived substances, e.g., nitric oxide, endothelin; arachidonic acid metabolites, e.g., prostaglandins, prostacyclin), inflammatory processes, an upheaval of neuronal mechanisms that regulate vascular tone, endothelial proliferation, and apoptosis have all been put forward as causative and/or pathogenic factors. Translational research in the field of vasospasm has traditionally aimed to identify agents/interventions in order to block the cascades initiated after SAH. The combination of novel approaches such as cerebral microdialysis, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, proteomics, and lipidomics could serve a dual purpose: elucidating the complex pathobiochemistry of vasospasm and providing clinicians with tools for early detection of this feared complication. The purpose of this Mini-Review is to provide an overview of the pathogenesis of cerebral vasospasm and of novel approaches used in basic and translational research.

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