Learn About Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

What is the definition of Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

Subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that cover the brain. This area is called the subarachnoid space. Subarachnoid bleeding is an emergency and prompt medical attention is needed.

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What are the alternative names for Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

Hemorrhage - subarachnoid; Subarachnoid bleeding

What are the causes of Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

Subarachnoid hemorrhage can be caused by:

  • Bleeding from a tangle of blood vessels called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM)
  • Bleeding disorder
  • Bleeding from a cerebral aneurysm (weak area in the wall of a blood vessel that causes the blood vessel to bulge or balloon out)
  • Head injury
  • Unknown cause (idiopathic)
  • Use of blood thinners

Subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by injury is often seen in the older people who have fallen and hit their head. Among the young, the most common injury leading to subarachnoid hemorrhage is motor vehicle crashes.

Risks include:

  • Unruptured aneurysm in the brain and other blood vessels
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) and other connective tissue and autoimmune disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • History of polycystic kidney disease
  • Smoking
  • Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine
  • Use of blood thinners such as warfarin

A strong family history of aneurysms may also increase your risk.

What are the symptoms of Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

The main symptom is a severe headache that starts suddenly (often called thunderclap headache). It is often worse near the back of the head. Many people often describe it as the "worst headache ever" and unlike any other type of headache pain. The headache may start after a popping or snapping feeling in the head.

Other symptoms:

  • Decreased consciousness and alertness
  • Eye discomfort in bright light (photophobia)
  • Mood and personality changes, including confusion and irritability
  • Muscle aches (especially neck pain and shoulder pain)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness in part of the body
  • Seizure
  • Stiff neck
  • Vision problems, including double vision, blind spots, or temporary vision loss in one eye

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

  • Eyelid drooping
  • Pupil size difference
  • Sudden stiffening of back and neck, with arching of the back (opisthotonos; not very common)
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What are the current treatments for Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

The goals of treatment are to:

  • Save your life
  • Repair the cause of bleeding
  • Relieve symptoms
  • Prevent complications such as permanent brain damage (stroke)

Surgery may be done to:

  • Remove large collections of blood or relieve pressure on the brain if the hemorrhage is due to an injury
  • Repair the aneurysm if the hemorrhage is due to an aneurysm rupture

If the person is critically ill, surgery may have to wait until the person is more stable.

Surgery may involve:

  • Craniotomy (cutting a hole in the skull) and aneurysm clipping, to close the aneurysm
  • Endovascular coiling: placing coils in the aneurysm and stents in the blood vessel to cage the coils reduces the risk of further bleeding

If no aneurysm is found, the person should be closely watched by a health care team and may need more imaging tests.

Treatment for coma or decreased alertness includes:

  • Draining tube placed in the brain to relieve pressure
  • Life support
  • Methods to protect the airway
  • Special positioning
  • Special medicines to decrease swelling in the skull

A person who is conscious may need to be on strict bed rest. The person will be told to avoid activities that can increase pressure inside the head, including:

  • Bending over
  • Straining
  • Suddenly changing position

Treatment may also include:

  • Medicines given through an IV line to control blood pressure
  • Medicine to prevent artery spasms
  • Painkillers and anti-anxiety medicines to relieve headache
  • Medicines to prevent or treat seizures
  • Stool softeners or laxatives to prevent straining during bowel movements
  • Medicines to prevent seizures
Who are the top Subarachnoid Hemorrhage Local Doctors?
Elite
Highly rated in
32
conditions
Neurosurgery

Department Of Neurosurgery

St. Louis, MO 

Gregory Zipfel is a Neurosurgery doctor in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Zipfel has been practicing medicine for over 27 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Subarachnoid Hemorrhage. He is also highly rated in 32 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, Brain Aneurysm, Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformation, and Meningioma. He is board certified in Neurosurgery and licensed to treat patients in Missouri. Dr. Zipfel is currently accepting new patients.

Elite
Highly rated in
41
conditions
Neurosurgery

Jefferson Neurological Associates

Philadelphia, PA 

Pascal Jabbour is a Neurosurgery doctor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Jabbour has been practicing medicine for over 24 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Subarachnoid Hemorrhage. He is also highly rated in 41 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Brain Aneurysm, Stroke, Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, and Apoplexy. He is board certified in Neurosurgery and licensed to treat patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Dr. Jabbour is currently accepting new patients.

 
 
 
 
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Elite
Highly rated in
21
conditions
Neurosurgery

909 Walnut Street Office

Philadelphia, PA 

Stavropoula Tjoumakaris is a Neurosurgery doctor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Tjoumakaris has been practicing medicine for over 19 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Subarachnoid Hemorrhage. She is also highly rated in 21 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Brain Aneurysm, Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, Stroke, and Apoplexy. She is board certified in Neurosurgery and licensed to treat patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Dr. Tjoumakaris is currently accepting new patients.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

How well a person with subarachnoid hemorrhage does depends on a number of different factors, including:

  • Location and amount of bleeding
  • Complications

Older age and more severe symptoms can lead to a poorer outcome.

People can recover completely after treatment. But some people die, even with treatment.

What are the possible complications of Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

Repeated bleeding is the most serious complication. If a cerebral aneurysm bleeds for a second time, the outlook is much worse.

Changes in consciousness and alertness due to a subarachnoid hemorrhage may become worse and lead to coma or death.

Other complications include:

  • Complications of surgery
  • Medicine side effects
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
When should I contact a medical professional for Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you or someone you know has symptoms of a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

How do I prevent Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

The following measures may help prevent subarachnoid hemorrhage:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Treating high blood pressure
  • Identifying and successfully treating an aneurysm
  • Not using illicit drugs
What are the latest Subarachnoid Hemorrhage Clinical Trials?
Diagnosis-related Outcomes in NeurocriTical Care: Prognostic Estimate by Health-care Providers Versus Risk Scores in Intracerebral and Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
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The NEUROlogically-impaired Extubation Timing Trial
What are the Latest Advances for Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?
The Analysis of Percutaneous Balloon Compression on Efficacy and Negative Emotion in the Treatment of Recurrent Trigeminal Neuralgia After Surgical Procedures.
Systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of continuous cerebrospinal fluid drainage on keyhole surgery during the perioperative period.
Tired of the same old research?
Check Latest Advances
Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome in children: an update.
What are our references for Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

Mayer SA. Hemorrhagic cerebrovascular disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 380.

Szeder V, Tateshima S, Jahan R, Saver JL, Duckwiler GR. Intracranial aneurysms and subarachnoid hemorrhage. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 67.