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Stroke. 1996 Oct;27(10):1780-2.

Management of subarachnoid hemorrhage patients who presented with respiratory arrest resuscitated with bystander CPR.

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Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis 46202, USA.



The sudden death rate from aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is 10%. Since 1989, 26 SAH patients who were witnessed to collapse into coma with respiratory arrest and required cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at the scene survived to reach the hospital and be diagnosed. Although reports on hospital management of grade V SAH suggest improved outcome, no report has previously addressed the issue of respiratory arrest after acute SAH. We analyze our experience with this unique subgroup of aneurysmal SAH patients.


This is a retrospective analysis of 26 consecutive SAH patients who collapsed at the scene and required CPR for respiratory arrest and survived to reach the hospital and be diagnosed. Statistical analysis was performed using the t test and Mann-Whitney rank-sum test.


All patients were grade V on arrival at the emergency department. Twenty-one patients received mouth-to-mouth resuscitation only, and 5 received chest compressions as well. The mean duration of bystander CPR was 12 to 15 minutes. CT scan showed diffuse, thick SAH in all patients, an associated subdural hemorrhage in 2, and an intraparenchymal hemorrhage in 4. After CT scan, an intracranial pressure (ICP) monitor was placed in 24, and 2 were taken to emergency surgery for subdural and intracerebral hemorrhage. ICP was elevated in 24 patients (mean, 54 mm Hg), and a ventriculostomy was placed in all 24. ICP was unresponsive in 12, and all suffered brain death. ICP lessened to < 25 mm Hg in 12, and all underwent angiography. All 12 had an aneurysm and underwent emergency surgical clipping. Time to surgery from SAH was < or = 11 hours in all 12 patients. All were managed with calcium channel blockers and hyperdynamic therapy in addition to aggressive control of ICP. The outcome at 12 months in the 14 surgical cases was normal in 3 patients (21%), good in 2 (14%), vegetative in 1 (7%), and death in 8 (57%).


Aneurysmal SAH patients that present with respiratory arrest present as grade V patients with elevated ICP. Bystander CPR coupled with early retrieval, diagnosis, and therapy can lead to 20% functional survival in what used to be sudden death from aneurysmal SAH.

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