Grading And Prognosis Of aSAH

The single most important predictor of outcome after an aSAH is the presenting level of consciousness. The mental status and consciousness level seen during triage are routinely quantified by health care personnel using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) (Table 2). The assessments of eye opening, verbal responses, and motor commands contribute to the initial assessment and reflect the sum of the other prognostic factors associated with SAH, such as extent of hemorrhage, injury to the brain, size of ruptured aneurysm, patient's age, contributing medical illnesses, and others (15). Proper assessment of all these factors provides an accurate probability of outcome. The accuracy of assessment of all these factors greatly influences the accuracy of predicting outcome and, therefore, greatly influences patient management decisions.

The Hunt and Hess SAH scale (16) (Table 3) was introduced to quantify the severity of SAH and includes the signs of SAH, such as nuchal rigidity, cranial nerve palsy, hemiparesis, and others. The scale also relied on the patients' subjective report of their headache. Although these integrated assessments result in a strong predictive factor, the subjective components of the scale are vulnerable to variances in interpretation between different examiners and examinees. For example, "mild" versus "moderate" headaches reported by the patient could change the rating of SAH severity. The reported high interobserver disagreement (15) makes the scale less reliable.

The World Federation of Neurological Surgeons (WFNS) scale (Table 4) eliminates the subjective aspects of the Hunt and Hess scale and incorporates the GCS score as the basis for grading SAH. It effectively uses the objective criteria of the GCS to yield a WFNS SAH scale. Although this scale is easier to memorize and use, its categories have not been validated clinically.

The GCS for grading SAH (17) remains the simplest scale to use, with the highest predictive value for discharge GCS and lowest interobserver variability. The GCS SAH scale incorporates the clinically validated GCS as the objective criteria for grading aSAH (Table 5), utilizing a known scoring system and eliminating any subjective aspects. The GCS SAH Grade I is equivalent to a GCS of 15. Thereafter, the GCS SAH grade increases by 1 for decremental changes of 3 points on the GCS. For example, GCS SAH Grade II equals GCS of 14, 13, or 12, and GCS SAH Grade III equals GCS of 11, 10, or 9, etc. This facilitates memorization, but even if the initial care providers do not know the GCS SAH scale, their record of the GCS, itself, is documentation of the SAH scale. The validity of the GCS SAH scale is clear in direct comparison with the Hunt and Hess and WFNS scales (17). In our opinion, the high predictive value, low interobserver variability, and ease of use make the GCS SAH scale a preferred scale.

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