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Barbiturate coma for severe, refractory vasospasm following subarachnoid haemorrhage

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Objective: To document the outcome of patients treated with barbiturate coma for severe symptomatic angioplasty-resistant vasospasm. To compare mortality with that predicted by admission APACHE II score, and neurological outcome with that of historical controls treated with barbiturate coma for vasospasm, and with historical controls with delayed ischaemic deficits from vasospasm treated with nimodipine. Design: Cohort study. Setting: Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit of tertiary referral university teaching hospital. Patients: Eleven (6.7 %) of 164 consecutive patients with aneurysmal SAH managed according to our protocol who were treated with thiopentone-induced burst suppression coma for severe symptomatic, angioplasty-resistant vasospasm. Interventions: Chart, database and literature review. Measurements and results: All 11 patients survived to hospital discharge (mortality 0 %) compared with first-day APACHE II predicted mortality of 30.6 % (p = 0.15). Outcome at 6 months was: good recovery 8/11 (72.7 %), moderate disability 2/11 (18.2 %), vegetative survival 1/11 (9.1 %). Ten of 11 (90.9 %) had a good neurological outcome compared with 50.6 % of historical controls with delayed ischaemic deficit from vasospasm (odds ratio 9.78, 95 % confidence interval 1.24–77.0, p = 0.02), and 0 % of previously reported patients treated with barbiturate coma for vasospasm (p < 0.01). Conclusion: Our results are better than previously published outcomes and suggest formal evaluation of barbiturate coma in the treatment of severe resistant symptomatic vasospasm following SAH is warranted.

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Received: 9 September 1998 Accepted: 3 February 1999

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Finfer, S., Ferch, R. & Morgan, M. Barbiturate coma for severe, refractory vasospasm following subarachnoid haemorrhage. Intensive Care Med 25, 406–409 (1999).

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