ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is a Subarachnoid Haemorrhage and how does it affect the brain?

Updated on September 20, 2014


Example of coiling an aneurysm
Example of coiling an aneurysm

What Causes a Subarachnoid Haemorrhage?

A subarachnoid haemorrhage (or SAH) is quite an uncommon condition of the brain which can lead to stroke. It is where blood vessels leak onto the brain, usually due to a burst aneurysm (known as berry aneurysms). These burst when there is a weakness in the blood vessel wall or from a head injury. Smokers or those with high blood pressure or hypertension are also at risk of SAH.

Signs and Symptoms of a Haemorrhage

Symptoms tend to be a sudden headache which is severe and could cause collapse. Photo phobia (sensitivity to light) and symptoms similar to meningitis are also a sign that the patient has a haemorrhage in the subarachnoid space in the brain. The earlier the patient reaches hospital and is treated in a neuro-surgical unit, the better chance of recovery.

It is possible that a SAH could be fatal. This could be within hours or weeks of development, but the chances of survival are also good if the patient survives the bleeding and is admitted to hospital. Women are generally more likely to suffer from a SAH than men, with a ratio of 3:2. Women have a greater risk over the age of 40, but men are more likely to have a SAH before the age of 40.

Other signs and symptoms to watch out for include: Mild sudden headache, severe sudden headache, loss of consciousness, seizures, nausea and vomiting and focal damage.

A CT head scan will be carried out to detect the haemorrhage before going to theatre for surgery. However, a lumber puncture may be performed if the bleed was more than six hours previous, the CT scan is negative or a patient is confused or less responsive. If the spinal fluid is bloodstained it is cerebal, and the patient is referred to a neurosurgical team.

The surgeon will treat the aneurysm either by using 'coiling' or 'clipping' procedures when the patient has been assessed. The clinical assessment will be carried out to obtain the severity of the SAH. Neurological observations are done on the patient to indicate their GCS (Glasgow Coma Scale). If the GCS is 15/15, the patient has no confusion, is fully aware, and has good power in all limbs.

If the patient goes for clipping, it is usually because the aneurysm is very large or cannot be coiled due to the location of the site. Part of the skull is removed (craniotomy) and a small metal clip is fixed at the neck to stop blood flow to the aneurysm. Although it is effective, it is a complicated procedure.

Coiling however is a less invasive method, as it does not require open surgery. It was introduced in the early 1990s without the need of craniotomy. Small metal coils are inserted into the aneurysm through the vascular system to block blood flow to minimise risk of further bleeding. Blood then clots around the coils to seal the area.

After treatment, the patient stays on the ward for flat bed rest and observations before rehabilitation for full recovery. 50% of patients who survive SAH can continue with their former life and employment. A significant number however will suffer from a minor personality change or intellectual deficit and epilepsy.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Hi Mar, thank you for being the first to comment.

      It is a tough subject but it's one I learned a lot about when I worked in the neurosciences department at a large London hospital.

      I looked after patients with complex health problems - sometimes more serious than they could imagine.

      For a nurse or healthcare professional, neurology really is a good place to work and learn and understand this illness.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Emma,

      Thank you for presenting this useful information in such a clear manner.

      The subject is most important to me as both a nurse and a daughter. Many older adults fall, a common and often insidious effect is a subarachnoid hemorrhage, hitting your head... 'oh I'm fine'. Or many OA kinda keep such information for days from loved ones so not to worry, various reasons. Effects can be fatal, can be 48-72 hours after the incident... keeping communication as open as possible with your loved ones and getting checked out as soon as possible is always ideal.

      Articles such as yours are such a wonderful reminder to us all. Voted UP & UABI. Thank you, mar.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)