Efficacy of multiple intraarterial papaverine infusions for improvement in cerebral circulation time in patients with recurrent cerebral vasospasm

James K. Liu, Michael S. Tenner, Oren N. Gottfried, Edwin A. Stevens, Joshua M. Rosenow, Neel Madan, Joel D. MacDonald, John R W Kestle, William T. Couldwell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Object. Cerebral vasospasm that is caused by aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage and that is refractory to maximal medical management can be treated with selective intraarterial papaverine infusions. The effects of single papaverine treatments on cerebral circulation time are well known. The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of multiple, repeated papaverine infusions on the cerebral circulation time in patients with recurrent vasospasm. Methods. A retrospective study was conducted in 17 patients who received multiple intraarterial papaverine infusions in 91 carotid artery (CA) territories for the treatment of cerebral vasospasm. Cerebral circulation times were measured from the first angiographic image, in which peak contrast was seen above the supraclinoid internal CA, to the peak filling of cortical veins. Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) scores assessed 12 months after discharge were reviewed. Cerebral circulation times in 16 CA territories were measured in a control group of 11 patients. Seventeen patients received a total of 91 papaverine treatments. Prolonged cerebral circulation times improved after 90 (99%) of 91 papaverine treatments. The prepapaverine mean cerebral circulation time was 6.54 seconds (range 3.35-27 seconds) and the immediate postpapaverine mean cerebral circulation time was 4.19 seconds (range 2.1-12.6 seconds), an overall mean decrease of 2.35 seconds (36%, p < 0.001). Recurrent vasospasm reflected by prolonged cerebral circulation times continued to improve with subsequent papaverine infusions. Repeated infusions were just as successful quantitatively as the primary treatment (mean change 2.06 seconds). The mean cerebral circulation time in the control group was 5.21 seconds (range 4-6.8 seconds). In five patients a dramatic reversal of low-attenuation changes was detected on computerized tomography scans. The mean GOS score at 12 months after discharge was 3.4. Conclusions. The preliminary results indicate that multiple intraarterial papaverine treatments consistently improve cerebral circulation times, even with repeated infusions in cases of recurrent vasospasm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-421
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Cerebral circulation time
  • Cerebral vasospasm
  • Papaverine
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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