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OBJECTIVES: Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage often leads to death and poor clinical outcome. Injury occurring during the first 72 hours is termed "early brain injury," with disruption of the nitric oxide pathway playing an important pathophysiologic role in its development. Quantitative electroencephalographic variables, such as α/δ frequency ratio, are surrogate markers of cerebral ischemia. This study assessed the quantitative electroencephalographic response to a cerebral nitric oxide donor (intravenous sodium nitrite) to explore whether this correlates with the eventual development of delayed cerebral ischemia. DESIGN: Unblinded pilot study testing response to drug intervention. SETTING: Neuroscience ICU, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom. PATIENTS: Fourteen World Federation of Neurosurgeons grades 3, 4, and 5 patients (mean age, 52.8 yr [range, 41-69 yr]; 11 women). INTERVENTIONS: IV sodium nitrite (10 μg/kg/min) for 1 hour. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Continuous electroencephalographic recording for 2 hours. The alpha/delta frequency ratio was measured before and during IV sodium nitrite infusion. Seven of 14 patients developed delayed cerebral ischemia. There was a +30% to +118% (range) increase in the alpha/delta frequency ratio in patients who did not develop delayed cerebral ischemia (p < 0.0001) but an overall decrease in the alpha/delta frequency ratio in those patients who did develop delayed cerebral ischemia (range, +11% to -31%) (p = 0.006, multivariate analysis accounting for major confounds). CONCLUSIONS: Administration of sodium nitrite after severe subarachnoid hemorrhage differentially influences quantitative electroencephalographic variables depending on the patient's susceptibility to development of delayed cerebral ischemia. With further validation in a larger sample size, this response may be developed as a tool for risk stratification after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Original publication




Journal article


Crit Care Med

Publication Date





e1067 - e1073


Adult, Aged, Aneurysm, Ruptured, Brain Ischemia, Electroencephalography, Female, Humans, Infusions, Intravenous, Intensive Care Units, Intracranial Aneurysm, Male, Middle Aged, Nitric Oxide Donors, Pilot Projects, Sodium Nitrite, Subarachnoid Hemorrhage