Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: What is it and how is it treated?

Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts open. This causes bleeding in the space between two layers of the membranes that cover the brain, known as the subarachnoid space. SAH can result in stroke, permanent neurological deficit (loss of function), and in some cases, death.

The most common symptom of SAH is a sudden, severe headache, described as “the worst headache of your life”. Other symptoms include changes in vision, confusion, nausea and vomiting, seizures, drowsiness, unusually slow breathing, difficulty walking, and loss of consciousness. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms occur.

Because SAH is a medical emergency that can quickly become life-threatening, prompt diagnosis and treatment is essential. Diagnostic tests used to diagnose SAH include a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain, which can detect blood in the space between the layers of the membranes that cover the brain.

Treatment for SAH depends on the severity and cause of the condition. It usually includes medications or surgery to stop the bleeding and prevent a stroke or other complications. Medications commonly used to treat SAH include diuretics, anti-seizure medications, calcium-channel blockers, and anticoagulants. Surgery may be necessary to remove the blood clot or repair a burst aneurysm.

Complications of SAH can include stroke, head injury, hydrocephalus, psychological problems, coma, and in some cases, death. Long-term care may be needed if SAH causes permanent neurological deficits.

Preventative Measures for Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Although there is no way to completely prevent SAH, there are a few measures you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a nutritious, low-fat diet.
  • Maintain good blood pressure.
  • Have regular medical check-ups.
  • See your doctor right away if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above.