Subarachnoid Haemorrhage - The Event
What is subarachnoid haemorrhage?
Subarachnoid haemorrhage is a sudden leakage of blood into the space between the membranes covering the brain. It is a serious, life threatening condition which requires urgent medical attention.
Most subarachnoid haemorrhages are caused by a weakness in an artery called an aneurysm - a swelling at a junction of blood vessels. Although aneurysms are quite common, only a small proportion of these rupture and cause subarachnoid haemorrhage. It is not fully understood why aneurysms develop, but smoking, alcohol and drug abuse and hypertension (high blood pressure) are thought to be risk factors. Another cause of subarachnoid haemorrhage is a bleed from a tangled mass of blood vessels called an arteriovenous malformation. This type of subarachnoid haemorrhage is usually less severe.
The classic symptom of subarachnoid haemorrhage is a headache of sudden onset, usually severe and often described as "the worst of my life". One or more of the following symptoms may be present:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Decreased level of consciousness or coma
• Photophobia (dislike of light)
• Stiff neck
Karen (45) from Dorset, SAH July 2005 says:
I sat on the settee and felt so awful, wondering how much more pain I could take. I felt as though my head was going to blow and suddenly felt and heard a “whooshing of air” through my head and I shouted out in sheer panic. I lost all feeling down the left hand side of my body and I couldn’t feel my leg or walk. I knew that I was going to be sick and I couldn’t move.
Keith (46) from Hampshire, SAH August 2006 says:
It was the middle of the night and I got up to visit the bathroom and a headache came on from nothing to the worst I've ever had in the space of about 30 seconds. I remember laying on the floor groaning with pain and not being able to move my arms and legs.
Sami (36) from Nottinghamshire, SAH August 2006 says:
I had a headache all the day before and eventually felt a popping sensation in the back of my head and passed out. When I came round, the right hand side of my body was paralysed. When I tried to stand I fell over and then when I did manage to get up this almighty pain in the back of the head occurred. It felt like someone hitting me around the back of the head with a baseball bat.
In most cases, a CT scan is performed which can detect blood in the subarachnoid space. A lumbar puncture is sometimes performed to detect the presence of blood in the cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF).