BACKGROUND: Cerebral vasospasm is an independent predictor of poor outcome after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). The nitric oxidecyclic guanosine monophosphate (NO-cGMP) vasodilatory pathway is strongly implicated in its pathophysiology. Preliminary studies suggest that phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5), an enzyme that degrades cGMP, may play a role because the PDE5 inhibitor sildenafil was found to reduce vasospasm after SAH. However, several questions that are critical when considering translational studies remain unanswered. OBJECTIVE: To elucidate the mechanism of action of sildenafil against vasospasm and to assess whether sildenafil attenuates SAH-induced neuronal cell death, improves functional outcome after SAH, or causes significant physiological side effects when administered at therapeutically relevant doses. METHODS: SAH was induced via endovascular perforation in male C57BL6 mice. Beginning 2 hours later, mice received sildenafil citrate (0.7, 2 or 5 mg/kg orally twice daily) or vehicle. Neurological outcome was assessed daily. Vasospasm was determined on post-SAH day 3. Brain PDE5 expression and activity, cGMP content, neuronal cell death, arterial blood pressure, and intracranial pressure were examined. RESULTS: We found that PDE5 activity (but not expression) is increased after SAH, leading to decreased cGMP levels. Sildenafil attenuates this increase in PDE5 activity and restores cGMP levels after SAH. Post-SAH initiation of sildenafil was found to decrease vasospasm and neuronal cell death and markedly improve neurological outcome without causing significant physiological side effects. CONCLUSION: Sildenafil, a US Food and Drug Administration approved drug with a proven track record of safety in humans, is a promising new therapy for vasospasm and neurological deficits after SAH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-186
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Cerebral vasospasm
  • Neurological manifestations
  • Phosphodiesterase inhibitors
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage


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