Subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) is a form of stroke that is associated with substantial morbidity, often as a result of cerebral ischaemia that occurs in the following days. These delayed deficits in blood flow have been traditionally attributed to cerebral vasospasm (the narrowing of large arteries), which can lead to cerebral infarction and poor neurological outcome. Data from recent studies, however, show that treatment of vasospasm in patients with SAH, using targeted medication, does not translate to better neurological outcomes, and argue against vasospasm being the sole cause of the delayed ischaemic complications. Cerebral autoregulation—a mechanism that maintains stability of cerebral blood flow in response to changes in cerebral perfusion pressure—has been reported to fail after SAH, often before vasospasm becomes apparent. Failure of autoregulation, therefore, has been implicated in development of delayed cerebral ischaemia. In this Review, we summarize current knowledge about the clinical effect of disturbed cerebral autoregulation following aneurysmal SAH, with emphasis on development of delayed cerebral ischaemia and clinical outcome, and provide a critical assessment of studies of cerebral autoregulation in SAH with respect to the method of blood-flow measurement. Better understanding of cerebral autoregulation following SAH could reveal mechanisms of blood-flow regulation that could be therapeutically targeted to improve patient outcome.
Budohoski, K. P. et al. Nat. Rev. Neurol.9, 152-163 (2013); published online 19 February 2013; doi:10.1038/nrneurol.2013.11