New AHA Guidelines Aim for Better Outcomes in Patients with Brain Bleeds

Northwestern Medicine
Neurosciences June 11, 2012

About 50,000 Americans have a brain aneurysm rupture each year. Depending on several factors, a ruptured brain aneurysm may be fatal, or with proper treatment, there may be a complete recovery. In May, the American Heart Association introduced revised guidelines for the management of this type of stroke called an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH).  I served as a co-author for these guidelines which outline expert recommendations for management to give patients the best possible chance at recovery. As director of neuro/spine ICU at Northwestern Memorial and a stroke researcher, I have seen firsthand the difference that an experienced team and the proper treatment can make for patients with this very serious type of stroke.

One of the main components of the updated guidelines is the recommendation that physicians should immediately transfer patients with aSAH to a hospital that treats high volumes of these cases each year.  Research shows that patients experience better outcomes at institutions with higher volumes of this type of brain bleed.  The guidelines also encourage a multidisciplinary approach tailored to each patient’s individual needs. At Northwestern, we regularly treat patients with aSAH and have protocols in place to help ensure that every patient gets the best possible care and outcome. We also take a multidisciplinary approach to stroke care; our team of leading cerebrovascular experts includes neurologists, neurosurgeons and neuroradiologists.  We also have a dedicated neuro ICU where patients who have had strokes are treated by physicians who specialize in neurocritical care and can meet their unique needs.

While ruptured aneurysms are relatively rare, it’s important to understand your risk factors for this or any other type of stroke. The biggest risk factor for stroke is untreated high blood pressure (hypertension) – if you have hypertension, you should see a healthcare provider regularly to control it and limit your risk for stroke. Other important risk factors are tobacco use, a family history of brain aneurysms, connective tissue diseases. To learn more about stroke risk factors and prevention, read this press release.

Dr. Naidech is a co-author of the AHA guidelines, following several influential peer-reviewed publications from Northwestern Medicine®.

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