Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine - 16th Ed. (2005)
349. CEREBROVASCULAR DISEASES - Wade S. Smith, S. Claiborne
Johnston, J. Donald Easton
Cerebrovascular diseases include some of the most common and devastating disorders:
ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, and cerebrovascular anomalies such as intracranial
aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). They cause ~200,000 deaths each
year in the United States and are a major cause of disability. The incidence of
cerebrovascular diseases increases with age, and the number of strokes is projected to
increase as the elderly population grows, with a doubling in stroke deaths in the United
States by 2030. Most cerebrovascular diseases are manifest by the abrupt onset of a focal
neurologic deficit, as if the patient was "struck by the hand of God". A stroke, or
cerebrovascular accident, is defined by this abrupt onset of a neurologic deficit that is
attributable to a focal vascular cause. Thus, the definition of stroke is clinical, and
laboratory studies including brain imaging are used to support the diagnosis. The clinical
manifestations of stroke are highly variable because of the complex anatomy of the brain
and its vasculature. Cerebral ischemia is caused by a reduction in blood flow that lasts
longer than several seconds. Neurologic symptoms are manifest within seconds because
neurons lack glycogen, so energy failure is rapid. When blood flow is quickly restored,
brain tissue can recover fully and the patient's symptoms are only transient: this is called
a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Typically the neurologic signs and symptoms of a TIA
last for 5 to 15 min but, by definition, must last <24 h. If the cessation of flow lasts for
more than a few minutes, infarction or death of brain tissue results. Stroke has occurred if
the neurologic signs and symptoms last for >24 h. A generalized reduction in cerebral
blood flow due to systemic hypotension (e.g., cardiac arrhythmia, myocardial infarction,
or hemorrhagic shock) usually produces syncope (Chap. 20). If low cerebral blood flow
persists for a longer duration, then infarction in the border zones between the major
cerebral artery distributions may develop. In more severe instances, global hypoxia-
ischemia causes widespread brain injury; the constellation of cognitive sequelae that
ensue is called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (Chap. 258). Focal ischemia or
infarction, on the other hand, is usually caused by thrombosis of the cerebral vessels
themselves or by emboli from a proximal arterial source or the heart. Cerebral
hemorrhage produces neurologic symptoms by producing a mass effect on neural
structures or from the toxic effects of blood itself.
IMAGING STUDIES (SEE ALSO CHAP. 347)
Computed Tomographic Scans CT53 radiographic images identify or exclude
hemorrhage as the cause of stroke, and they identify extraparenchymal hemorrhages,
neoplasms, abscesses, and other conditions masquerading as stroke. Scans obtained in the
first several hours after an infarction generally show no abnormality, and the infarct may
not be seen reliably for 24 to 48 h. CT may fail to show small ischemic strokes in the
posterior fossa because of bone artifact; small infarcts on the cortical surface may also be
Contrast-enhanced CT54 scans add specificity by showing contrast enhancement of
subacute infarcts and allow visualization of venous structures. Coupled with newer
generation scanners, CT angiography (CTA) can be performed with administration of
intravenous iodinated contrast allowing visualization of the cervical and intracranial
arteries. Carotid disease and intracranial vascular occlusions are readily identified with
this method (Fig. 349-12). After an intravenous bolus of contrast, deficits in brain
perfusion produced by vascular occlusion can also be demonstrated (Fig. 349-12 C). CT
imaging is also sensitive for detecting subarachnoid hemorrhage, and CTA can readily
identify intracranial aneurysms (see below). Because of its speed and wide availability,
noncontrast head CT is the imaging modality of choice in patients with acute stroke (Fig.
349-1), and CTA and CT perfusion imaging may also be useful and convenient adjuncts.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI2 reliably documents the extent and location
of infarction in all areas of the brain, including the posterior fossa and cortical surface. It
also identifies intracranial hemorrhage and other abnormalities but is less sensitive than
CT55 for detecting acute blood. MRI scanners with magnets of higher field strength
produce more reliable and precise images. Diffusion-weighted imaging is more sensitive
for early brain infarction than standard MR56 sequences (Fig. 349-13), as is FLAIR (fluid-
attenuated inversion recovery) imaging (Chap. 347). Using intravenous administration of
gadolinium contrast, MR perfusion studies can be performed. Brain regions showing poor
perfusion but no abnormality on diffusion are considered equivalent to the ischemic
penumbra (see "Pathophysiology of Ischemic Stroke," above), and patients showing large
regions of mismatch may be better candidates for acute revascularization. MR
angiography is highly sensitive for stenosis of extracranial internal carotid arteries and of
large intracranial vessels. With higher degrees of stenosis, MR angiography tends to
overestimate the degree of stenosis when compared to conventional x-ray angiography.
MRI with fat saturation is an imaging sequence used to visualize extra- or intracranial
arterial dissection. This sensitive technique images clotted blood within the dissected
MRI2 is less sensitive for acute blood products than CT57 and is more expensive and time
consuming and less readily available. Claustrophobia also limits its application. Most
acute stroke protocols use CT because of these limitations. However, MRI may be useful
outside the acute period by more clearly defining the extent and possible source of a
Cerebral Angiography Conventional x-ray cerebral angiography is the "gold standard"
for identifying and quantifying atherosclerotic stenoses of the cerebral arteries and for
identifying and characterizing other pathologies, including aneurysm, vasospasm,
intraluminal thrombi, fibromuscular dysplasia, arteriovenous fistula, vasculitis, and
collateral channels of blood flow. Endovascular techniques, which are evolving rapidly,
can be used to deploy stents within delicate intracranial vessels, to perform balloon
angioplasty of stenotic lesions, and to treat intracranial aneurysms by embolization.
Recent studies have documented that intraarterial delivery of thrombolytic agents to
patients with acute MCA58 stroke can effectively recanalize vessels and improve clinical
outcomes. Although its use is investigational in many centers, cerebral angiography
coupled with endovascular techniques for cerebral revascularization may become routine
in the near future. Conventional angiography carries risks of arterial damage, groin
hemorrhage, embolic stroke, and renal failure from contrast nephropathy, so it should be
reserved for situations where less invasive means are inadequate.
Ultrasound Techniques Stenosis at the origin of the internal carotid artery can be
identified and quantified reliably by ultrasonography that combines a B-mode ultrasound
image with a Doppler ultrasound assessment of flow velocity ("duplex" ultrasound).
Transcranial Doppler (TCD) assessment of middle, anterior, and posterior cerebral artery
flow and of vertebrobasilar flow is also useful. This latter technique can detect stenotic
lesions in the large intracranial arteries because such lesions increase systolic flow
velocity. In many cases, MR59 angiography combined with carotid and transcranial
ultrasound studies eliminates the need for conventional x-ray angiography in evaluating
vascular stenosis. Alternatively, CT60 angiography of the entire head and neck can be
performed during the initial imaging of acute stroke. Because this images the entire
arterial system relevant to stroke, with the exception of the heart, much of the clinician's
stroke workup can be completed with one imaging study.
Perfusion Techniques Both xenon techniques (principally xenon-CT61) and PET62 can
quantify cerebral blood flow. These tools are generally used for research (Chap. 347) but
can be useful for determining the significance of arterial stenosis and planning for
revascularization surgery. Single photon emission tomography (SPECT), CT perfusion,
and MR63 perfusion techniques report relative cerebral blood flow. Since CT imaging is
used as the initial imaging modality for acute stroke, many centers now combine both CT
angiography and CT perfusion imaging together with the noncontrast CT scan. CT
perfusion imaging increases the sensitivity and improves accuracy in imaging ischemic
brain. Alternatively, MR perfusion can be combined with MR diffusion imaging to
identify the ischemic penumbra as the mismatch between these two imaging sequences
(Fig. 349-13). The ability to image the ischemic penumbra allows more judicious
selection of patients who may or may not benefit from acute interventions such as
thrombolysis or investigational neuroprotective strategies.
Hemorrhages are classified by their location and the underlying vascular pathology.
Bleeding into subdural and epidural spaces is principally produced by trauma (Chap.
357). Intraparenchymal, intraventricular, and subarachnoid hemorrhage will be
Intracranial hemorrhage is often discovered on noncontrast CT64 imaging of the brain
during the acute evaluation of stroke. Since CT is more sensitive than routine MRI2 for
acute blood, CT imaging is the preferred method for acute stroke evaluation (Fig. 349-1).
The location of the hemorrhage narrows the differential diagnosis to a few entities. Table
349-6 lists the causes and anatomic spaces involved in hemorrhages.
Close attention should be paid to airway management since a reduction in the level of
consciousness is common. The initial blood pressure should be maintained until the
results of the CT65 scan are reviewed. Patients with acute SAH13 should have blood
pressure lowered to a normal range with nonvasodilating agents such as nicardipine,
labetalol, or esmolol. Patients with cerebellar hemorrhages or with depressed mental
status and radiographic evidence of hydrocephalus should undergo urgent neurosurgical
evaluation. Based on the clinical examination and CT findings, further imaging studies
may be necessary, including MRI2 or conventional x-ray angiography. Stuporous or
comatose patients generally are treated presumptively for elevated ICP66, with tracheal
intubation and hyperventilation, mannitol administration, and elevation of the head of the
bed while surgical consultation is obtained (Chap. 258).
Excluding head trauma, the most common cause of SAH13 is rupture of a saccular
aneurysm. Other causes include bleeding from a vascular anomaly and extension into the
subarachnoid space from a primary intracerebral hemorrhage. Some idiopathic SAHs are
localized to the perimesencephalic cisterns and are benign; they probably have a venous
or capillary source, and angiography is unrevealing.
Saccular ("Berry") Aneurysm Autopsy and angiography studies have found that about
2% of adults harbor intracranial aneurysms, for a prevalence of 4 million persons in the
United States; the aneurysm will rupture, producing SAH13, in 25,000 to 30,000 cases per
year. For patients who arrive alive at hospital, the mortality rate over the next month is
about 45%. Of those who survive, more than half are left with major neurologic deficits
as a result of the initial hemorrhage, cerebral vasospasm with infarction, or
hydrocephalus. If the patient survives but the aneurysm is not obliterated, the rate of
rebleeding is about 20% in the first 2 weeks and about 3% per year afterwards. Given
these alarming figures, the major therapeutic emphasis is on preventing the predictable
early complications of the SAH.
Unruptured, asymptomatic aneurysms are much less dangerous than a recently ruptured
aneurysm. The annual risk of rupture for aneurysms <10 mm in size is ~0.1%, and for
aneurysms ≥10 mm in size is ~0.5 to 1%; the surgical morbidity far exceeds these
percentages. As more data become available, a true risk-benefit analysis for treating these
aneurysms will result.
Giant aneurysms, those >2.5 cm in diameter, occur at the same sites (see below) as small
aneurysms and account for 5% of cases. The three most common locations are the
terminal internal carotid artery, MCA67 bifurcation, and top of the basilar artery. Their
risk of rupture is about 6% in the first year after identification and may remain high
indefinitely. They often cause symptoms by compressing the adjacent brain or cranial
Mycotic aneurysms are usually located distal to the first bifurcation of major arteries of
the circle of Willis. Most result from infected emboli due to bacterial endocarditis
causing septic degeneration of arteries and subsequent dilatation and rupture. Whether
these lesions should be sought and repaired prior to rupture, or left to heal spontaneously,
PATHOPHYSIOLOGY Saccular aneurysms occur at the bifurcations of the large to
medium-sized intracranial arteries; rupture is into the subarachnoid space in the basal
cisterns and often into the parenchyma of the adjacent brain. Approximately 85% of
aneurysms occur in the anterior circulation, mostly on the circle of Willis. About 20% of
patients have multiple aneurysms, many at mirror sites bilaterally. As an aneurysm
develops, it typically forms a neck with a dome. The length of the neck and the size of the
dome vary greatly and are factors that are important in planning neurosurgical
obliteration or endovascular embolization. The arterial internal elastic lamina disappears
at the base of the neck. The media thins, and connective tissue replaces smooth-muscle
cells. At the site of rupture (most often the dome) the wall thins, and the tear that allows
bleeding is often no more than 0.5 mm long. Aneurysm size and site are important in
predicting risk of rupture. Those >7 mm in diameter and those at the top of the basilar
artery and at the origin of the posterior communicating artery are at greater risk of
CLINICAL MANIFESTATIONS Most unruptured intracranial aneurysms are
completely asymptomatic. Symptoms are usually due to rupture and resultant SAH13. At
the moment of aneurysmal rupture with major SAH, the ICP68 suddenly rises. This may
account for the sudden transient loss of consciousness that occurs in nearly half of
patients. Sudden loss of consciousness may be preceded by a brief moment of
excruciating headache, but most patients first complain of headache upon regaining
consciousness. In 10% of cases, aneurysmal bleeding is severe enough to cause loss of
consciousness for several days. In about 45% of cases, severe headache associated with
exertion is the presenting complaint. The patient often calls the headache "the worst
headache of my life." Occasionally these ruptures may present as headache of only
moderate intensity or as a change in the patient's usual headache pattern. The headache is
usually generalized, often with neck stiffness, and vomiting is common.
Although sudden headache in the absence of focal neurologic symptoms is the hallmark
of aneurysmal rupture, focal neurologic deficits may occur. Anterior communicating
artery or MCA69 bifurcation aneurysms may rupture into the adjacent brain or subdural
space and form a hematoma large enough to produce mass effect. The common deficits
that result include hemiparesis, aphasia, and abulia.
Occasionally, prodromal symptoms suggest the location of a progressively enlarging
unruptured aneurysm. A third cranial nerve palsy, particularly when associated with
pupillary dilatation, loss of ipsilateral (but retained contralateral) light reflex, and focal
pain above or behind the eye, may occur with an expanding aneurysm at the junction of
the posterior communicating artery and the internal carotid artery. A sixth nerve palsy
may indicate an aneurysm in the cavernous sinus, and visual field defects can occur with
an expanding supraclinoid carotid or anterior cerebral artery aneurysm. Occipital and
posterior cervical pain may signal a posterior inferior cerebellar artery or anterior inferior
cerebellar artery aneurysm. Pain in or behind the eye and in the low temple can occur
with an expanding MCA70 aneurysm. Thunderclap headache is a variant of migraine that
simulates a SAH13. Before concluding that a patient with sudden, severe headache has
thunderclap migraine, a definitive workup for aneurysm or other intracranial pathology is
Aneurysms can undergo small ruptures and leaks of blood into the subarachnoid space,
so-called sentinel bleeds. Sudden unexplained headache at any location should raise
suspicion of SAH13 and be investigated, because a major hemorrhage may be imminent.
DELAYED NEUROLOGIC DEFICITS There are four major causes of delayed
neurologic deficits: rerupture, hydrocephalus, vasospasm, and hyponatremia.
1. Rerupture. The incidence of rerupture of an untreated aneurysm in the first month
following SAH13 is ~30%, with the peak in the first 7 days. Rerupture is associated with a
60% mortality and poor outcome. Early treatment eliminates this risk.
2. Hydrocephalus. Acute hydrocephalus can cause stupor and coma. More often,
subacute hydrocephalus develops over a few days or weeks and causes progressive
drowsiness or slowed mentation (abulia) with incontinence. Hydrocephalus is
differentiated from cerebral vasospasm with a CT71 scan, TCD72 ultrasound, or
conventional x-ray angiography. Hydrocephalus may clear spontaneously or require
temporary ventricular drainage. Chronic hydrocephalus may develop weeks to months
after SAH13 and manifest as gait difficulty, incontinence, or impaired mentation. Subtle
signs may be a lack of initiative in conversation or a failure to recover independence.
3. Vasospasm. Narrowing of the arteries at the base of the brain following SAH13 causes
symptomatic ischemia and infarction in ~30% of patients and is the major cause of
delayed morbidity and death. Signs of ischemia appear 4 to 14 days after the hemorrhage,
most often at 7 days. The severity and distribution of vasospasm determine whether
infarction will occur.Delayed vasospasm is believed to result from direct effects of
clotted blood and its breakdown products on the artery. In general, the more blood that
surrounds the arteries, the greater the chance of symptomatic vasospasm. Spasm of major
arteries produces symptoms referable to the appropriate vascular territory (see "Stroke
Syndromes," above). All of these focal symptoms may present abruptly, fluctuate, or
develop over a few days. In most cases, focal spasm is preceded by a decline in mental
status.Vasospasm can be detected reliably with conventional x-ray angiography, but this
invasive procedure is expensive and carries risk of stroke and other complications. TCD73
ultrasound is based on the principle that the velocity of blood flow within an artery will
rise as the lumen diameter is narrowed. By directing the probe along the MCA74 and
proximal ACA75, carotid terminus, vertebral, and basilar arteries on a daily or every-
other-day basis, vasospasm can be reliably detected and treatments initiated to prevent
cerebral ischemia (see below). CT76 angiography is another method that can reliably
detect vasospasm.Severe cerebral edema in patients with infarction from vasospasm may
increase the ICP77 enough to reduce cerebral perfusion pressure. Treatment is with
mannitol and hyperventilation (Chap. 258).
4. Hyponatremia. Hyponatremia may be profound and develop quickly in the first 2
weeks following SAH13. It usually results from inappropriate secretion of vasopressin
(Chap. 319) and secretion of atrial and brain natriuretic factors, which produce a
natriuresis. This "cerebral salt-wasting syndrome" clears over the course of 1 to 2 weeks
and, in the setting of SAH, should not be treated with free-water restriction as this may
increase the risk of stroke (see below).
LABORATORY EVALUATION AND IMAGING (FIG. 349-14) The hallmark of
aneurysmal rupture is blood in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). More than 95% of cases
have enough blood to be visualized on a high-quality noncontrast CT78 scan obtained
within 72 h. If the scan fails to establish the diagnosis of SAH13 and no mass lesion or
obstructive hydrocephalus is found, a lumbar puncture should be performed to establish
the presence of subarachnoid blood. Lysis of the red blood cells and subsequent
conversion of hemoglobin to bilirubin stains the spinal fluid yellow within 6 to 12 h of
SAH. This xanthochromic spinal fluid peaks in intensity at 48 h and lasts for 1 to 4
weeks, depending on the amount of subarachnoid blood.
The extent and location of subarachnoid blood on noncontrast CT79 scan help locate the
underlying aneurysm, identify the cause of any neurologic deficit, and predict delayed
vasospasm. A high incidence of symptomatic vasospasm in the MCA80 and ACA81 has
been found when early CT scans show subarachnoid clots >5 × 3 mm in the basal cisterns
or layers of blood >1 mm thick in the cerebral fissures. CT scans less reliably predict
vasospasm in the vertebral, basilar, or posterior cerebral arteries.
Lumbar puncture prior to an imaging procedure is indicated only if a CT82 scan is not
available at the time of the suspected SAH13. Once the diagnosis of hemorrhage from a
ruptured saccular aneurysm is suspected, four-vessel conventional x-ray angiography
(both carotids and both vertebrals) is generally performed to localize and define the
anatomic details of the aneurysm and to determine if other unruptured aneurysms exist
(Fig. 349-14). CT angiography is an alternative method for locating the aneurysm and
may be sufficient to plan definitive therapy. At some centers, the ruptured aneurysm can
be treated using endovascular techniques at the time of the initial angiogram (see below).
The ECG83 frequently shows ST-segment and T-wave changes similar to those associated
with cardiac ischemia. Prolonged QRS complex, increased QT interval, and prominent
"peaked" or deeply inverted symmetric T waves are usually secondary to the intracranial
hemorrhage. There is evidence that structural myocardial lesions produced by circulating
catecholamines may occur after SAH13, causing reversible cardiomyopathy sufficient to
cause shock or congestive heart failure. Serious ventricular dysrhythmias are unusual.
Close monitoring (daily or twice daily) of electrolytes is important because hyponatremia
can occur precipitously during the first 2 weeks following SAH13 (see above).
Early aneurysm repair prevents rerupture and allows the safe application of techniques to
improve blood flow (e.g., induced hypertension and hypervolemia) should symptomatic
vasospasm develop. An aneurysm can be "clipped" by a neurosurgeon or "coiled" by a
neurointerventional radiologist. Surgical repair involves placing a metal clip across the
aneurysm neck, thereby immediately eliminating the risk of rebleeding. This approach
requires craniotomy and brain retraction, which is associated with neurologic morbidity.
The newer endovascular technique involves placing platinum coils within the aneurysm
via a catheter that is passed from the femoral artery. The aneurysm is packed tightly to
enhance thrombosis and over time is walled-off from the circulation (Fig. 349-14). The
only prospective randomized trial of surgery versus endovascular treatment for ruptured
aneurysm, the International Study of Aneurysm Treatment (ISAT), was terminated early
when 24% of patients treated with endovascular therapy were dead or dependent at 1 year
compared to 31% treated with surgery, a 23% relative reduction. However, some
aneurysms have a morphology that is not amenable to coiling, and only a few
endovascular centers are available world-wide. Thus, surgery remains an important
The medical management of SAH13 centers on protecting the airway, managing blood
pressure before and after aneurysm treatment, preventing rebleeding prior to treatment,
managing vasospasm, treating hydrocephalus, treating hyponatremia, and preventing
Intracranial hypertension following aneurysmal rupture occurs secondary to subarachnoid
blood, parenchymal hematoma, acute hydrocephalus, or loss of vascular autoregulation.
Patients who are stuporous should undergo emergent ventriculostomy to prevent cerebral
ischemia from high ICP84. Medical therapies designed to combat raised ICP (e.g., mild
hyperventilation, mannitol, and sedation) can also be used as needed (Chap. 258). High
ICP refractory to treatment is a poor prognostic sign.
Prior to definitive treatment of the ruptured aneurysm, care is required to maintain
adequate cerebral perfusion pressure while avoiding excessive elevation of arterial
pressure. Occasionally an intracranial hematoma causing neurologic deterioration
Because rebleeding is common, all patients who are not candidates for early aneurysm
repair are put on bed rest in a quiet room and are given stool softeners to prevent
straining. If headache or neck pain is severe, mild sedation and analgesia are prescribed.
Extreme sedation is avoided because it can obscure changes in neurologic status.
Adequate hydration is necessary to avoid a decrease in blood volume predisposing to
Seizures are uncommon at the onset of aneurysmal rupture. The quivering, jerking, and
extensor posturing that often accompany loss of consciousness are probably related to the
sharp rise in ICP85 or, perhaps, acute generalized vasospasm. However, phenytoin is often
given as prophylactic therapy since a seizure may promote rebleeding.
Glucocorticoids may help reduce the head and neck ache caused by the irritative effect of
the subarachnoid blood. There is no good evidence that they reduce cerebral edema, are
neuroprotective, or reduce vascular injury, and their routine use therefore is not
Antifibrinolytic agents are not routinely prescribed but may be considered in patients in
whom aneurysm treatment cannot proceed immediately. They are associated with a
reduced incidence of aneurysmal rerupture but are also associated with an increased
incidence of delayed cerebral infarction and DVT86.
Vasospasm remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality following aneurysmal
SAH13 and treatment of the aneurysm. Treatment with the calcium channel antagonist
nimodipine (60 mg orally every 4 h) improves outcome, perhaps by preventing ischemic
injury rather than reducing the risk of vasospasm. Nimodipine can cause significant
hypotension in some patients, which may worsen cerebral ischemia in patients with
vasospasm. Symptomatic cerebral vasospasm can also be treated by increasing the
cerebral perfusion pressure by raising mean arterial pressure through plasma volume
expansion and the judicious use of vasopressor agents, usually phenylephrine or
dopamine. Raised perfusion pressure has been associated with clinical improvement in
many patients, but high arterial pressure may promote rebleeding in unprotected
aneurysms. Treatment with induced hypertension and hypervolemia generally requires
monitoring of arterial and central venous pressures. Volume expansion helps prevent
hypotension, augments cardiac output, and reduces blood viscosity by reducing the
hematocrit. This method is called "triple-H" (hypertension, hemodilution, and
If symptomatic vasospasm persists despite optimal medical therapy, intraarterial
vasodilators and percutaneous transluminal angioplasty are considered. Vasodilatation
following angioplasty appears to be permanent, allowing triple-H therapy to be tapered
sooner. The pharmacologic vasodilators (verapamil and nicardipine) do not last more
than 8 to 24 h, and therefore multiple treatments may be required until the subarachnoid
blood is reabsorbed.
Acute hydrocephalus can cause stupor or coma. It may clear spontaneously or require
temporary ventricular drainage. When chronic hydrocephalus develops, ventricular
shunting is the treatment of choice.
Free-water restriction is contraindicated in patients with SAH13 at risk for vasospasm
because hypovolemia and hypotension may occur and precipitate cerebral ischemia.
Many patients continue to experience a decline in serum sodium despite receiving
parenteral fluids containing normal saline. Frequently, supplemental oral salt coupled
with normal saline will mitigate hyponatremia, but often patients also require hypertonic
saline. Care must be taken not to correct serum sodium too quickly in patients with
marked hyponatremia of several days' duration, as central pontine myelinolysis (Chap.
258) may occur.
All patients should have pneumatic compression stockings applied to prevent pulmonary
embolism. Systemic heparin is contraindicated in patients with ruptured and untreated
aneurysms; it is a relative contraindication following craniotomy, and it may delay
thrombosis of a coiled aneurysm.