At many centers, patients undergo both computed tomographic angiography (CTA) and digital subtraction angiography (DSA). This practice negates most of the advantages of CTA, and it renders the risks and disadvantages of the two techniques additive. Previous reports in the literature have assessed the sensitivity and specificity of CTA compared with DSA; however, these investigations have not analyzed the clinical implications of a protocol that replaces DSA with CTA as the only diagnostic and pretreatment planning study for patients with cerebral aneurysms.
Since late 2001/early 2002, the combined neurovascular unit of the Massachusetts General Hospital has adopted a prospective protocol of CTA in place of DSA as the only diagnostic and pretreatment planning study for patients with cerebral aneurysms (ruptured and unruptured). We report the results obtained during the 12-month period from January 2002 to January 2003.
During the study period, 223 patients with cerebral aneurysms underwent initial diagnostic evaluation for cerebral aneurysm by the combined neurovascular team of Massachusetts General Hospital. Of the 223 patients, 109 patients had confirmed subarachnoid hemorrhage (Group A) and 114 patients did not have SAH (Group B). All of these patients were included in the prospective CTA protocol. Cerebral aneurysm treatment was initiated on the basis of CTA alone in 93 Group A patients (86%), in 89 Group B patients (78%), and in 182 patients (82%) overall. Treatment consisted of surgical clipping in 152 patients (68%), endovascular coiling in 56 patients (25%), endovascular parent artery balloon occlusion in 4 patients (2%), and external carotid artery to internal carotid artery bypass and carotid artery surgical occlusion in 2 patients (1%). Nine patients (4%) did not undergo treatment. The cerebral aneurysm detection rate by CTA was 100% for the presenting aneurysm (ruptured aneurysm in Group A or symptomatic/presenting aneurysm in Group B) in both groups. The detection rate by CTA for total cerebral aneurysms, including incidental multiple aneurysms, was 95.3% in Group A, 98.3% in Group B, and 97% overall. The overall morbidity associated with DSA (pretreatment or as intraoperative or postoperative clip evaluation) was one patient (1.3%) with a minor nonneurological complication, one patient (1.3%) with a minor neurological complication, and no patients (0%) with a major neurological complication.
We have demonstrated promising results with a prospective protocol of CTA in place of DSA as the only diagnostic and pretreatment planning study for patients with ruptured and unruptured cerebral aneurysms. It seems safe and effective to make decisions regarding treatment on the basis of CTA, without performing DSA, in the majority of patients with ruptured and unruptured cerebral aneurysms.