Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is a neurologic emergency and often a neurologic catastrophe. Nontraumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage is characterized by the extravasation of blood into the spaces covering the central nervous system. The leading cause of SAH is rupture of an intracranial aneurysm, which accounts for about 80-85% of cases. Mortality and morbidity can be reduced if SAH is treated urgently. Sudden, explosive headache is a cardinal but nonspecific feature in the diagnosis of SAH; computered tomography (CT) scanning is mandatory in all the patients with symptoms that are suggestive of SAH. Catheter angiography for detecting aneurysms is gradually being replaced by CT angiography. Diagnosing SAH can be challenging and treatment is complex, sophisticated and multidisciplinary. Rebleeding is the most imminent danger, which must be prevented by endovascular occlusion with detachable coils (coiling) or by surgical clipping of the aneurysm; the risk of delayed cerebral ischemia is reduced with nimodipine and avoiding hypovolemia; hydrocephalus can be treated by ventricular drainage. Intensive care plays a more important role in the management of SAH than in any other neurological disorder. Excellence in neurologic diagnosis, in operative neurosurgery or neuroradiologic procedures must be accompanied by excellence in Intensive Care.
This review emphasizes treatment in the Intensive Care Unit, surgical and endovascular therapeutic options and the current state of treatment of major complications such as rebleeding, cerebral vasospasm and acute hydrocephalus.