Causes of morbidity and mortality following aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH) include early brain injury and delayed neurologic deterioration, which may result from delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI). Complex pathophysiological mechanisms underlie DCI, which often includes angiographic vasospasm (aVSP) of cerebral arteries.
Despite the study of many pharmacological therapies for the prevention of DCI in aSAH, nimodipine—a dihydropyridine calcium channel blocker—remains the only drug recommended universally in this patient population. A common theme in the research of preventative therapies is the use of promising drugs that have been shown to reduce the occurrence of aVSP but ultimately did not improve functional outcomes in large, randomized studies. An example of this is the endothelin antagonist clazosentan, although this agent was recently approved in Japan.
The use of the only approved drug, nimodipine, is limited in practice by hypotension. The administration of nimodipine and its counterpart nicardipine by alternative routes, such as intrathecally or formulated as prolonged release implants, continues to be a rational area of study. Additional agents approved in other parts of the world include fasudil and tirilazad.
We provide a brief overview of agents currently being studied for prevention of aVSP and DCI after aSAH. Future studies may need to identify subpopulations of patients who can benefit from these drugs and perhaps redefine acceptable outcomes to demonstrate impact.