Patterns in neurosurgical adverse events: Open cerebrovascular neurosurgery

Judith M. Wong, John E.Ziew acz, Allen L. Ho, Jaykar R. Panchmatia, Albert H. Kim, Angela M. Bader, B. Gregory Thompson, Rose Du, Atul A. Gawande

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Object. As part of a project to devise evidence-based safety interventions for specialty surgery, we sought to review current evidence concerning the frequency of adverse events in open cerebrovascular neurosurgery and the state of knowledge regarding methods for their reduction. This review represents part of a series of papers written to consolidate information about these events and preventive measures as part of an ongoing effort to ascertain the utility of devising system-wide policies and safety tools to improve neurosurgical practice. Methods. The authors performed a PubMed search using search terms "cerebral aneurysm", "cerebral arteriovenous malformation", "intracerebral hemorrhage", "intracranial hemorrhage", "subarachnoid hemorrhage", and "complications" or "adverse events." Only papers that specifically discussed the relevant complication rates were included. Papers were chosen to be included to maximize the range of rates of occurrence for the reported adverse events. Results. The review revealed hemorrhage-related hyperglycemia (incidence rates ranging from 27% to 71%) and cerebral salt-wasting syndromes (34%-57%) to be the most common perioperative adverse events related to subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Next in terms of frequency was new cerebral infarction associated with SAH, with a rate estimated at 40%. Many techniques are advocated for use during surgery to minimize risk of this development, including intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring, but are not universally used due to surgeon preference and variable availability of appropriate staffing and equipment. The comparative effectiveness of using or omitting monitoring technologies has not been evaluated. The incidence of perioperative seizure related to vascular neurosurgery is unknown, but reported seizure rates from observational studies range from 4% to 42%. There are no standard guidelines for the use of seizure prophylaxis in these patients, and there remains a need for prospective studies to support such guidelines. Intraoperative rupture occurs at a rate of 7% to 35% and depends on aneurysm location and morphology, history of rupture, surgical technique, and surgeon experience. Preventive strategies include temporary vascular clipping. Technical adverse events directly involving application of the aneurysm clip include incomplete aneurysm obliteration and parent vessel occlusion. The rates of these events range from 5% to 18% for incomplete obliteration and 3% to 12% for major vessel occlusion. Intraoperative angiography is widely used to confirm clip placement; adjuncts include indocyanine green video angiography and microvascular Doppler ultrasonography. Use of these technologies varies by institution. Discussion. A significant proportion of these complications may be avoidable through development and testing of standardized protocols to incorporate monitoring technologies and specific technical practices, teamwork and communication, and concentrated volume and specialization. Collaborative monitoring and evaluation of such protocols are likely necessary for the advancement of open cerebrovascular neurosurgical quality.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE15
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2012


  • Adverse events
  • Perioperative care
  • Surgical safety


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