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Papers of the Week

2020 Feb




Prospective Implementation of the Ottawa Subarachnoid Hemorrhage Rule and 6-Hour Computed Tomography Rule.


Perry JJ, Sivilotti MLA, Émond M, Hohl CM, Khan M, Lesiuk H, Abdulaziz K, Wells GA, Stiell IG
Stroke. 2020 Feb; 51(2):424-430.
PMID: 31805846.


Background and Purpose- The Ottawa subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) rule identifies patients with headache requiring no testing for SAH, while the 6-hour computed tomography (CT) rule guides when to forgo a lumbar puncture. Our objectives were to: (1) estimate the clinical impact of the Ottawa SAH rule and the 6-hour-CT rule on testing rates (ie, CT, lumbar puncture, CT angiography); (2) validate the 6-hour-CT rule for SAH when applied prospectively in a new cohort of patients. Methods- We conducted a multicenter prospective before/after implementation study from 2011 to 2016 with 6 months follow-up at 6 tertiary-care Canadian Academic Emergency Departments. Consecutive alert, neurologically intact adults with headache were included. For intervention period, physicians were given a 1-hour lecture, pocket cards, posters were installed, and physicians indicated Ottawa SAH rule criteria when ordering CTs. SAH was defined by blood on CT, xanthochromia in cerebrospinal fluid, or >1×10/L red blood cells in cerebrospinal fluid with aneurysm. Results- We enrolled 3672 patients, 1743 before and 1929 after implementation, including 188 with SAH. Proportions undergoing CT was unchanged (88.0% versus 87.5%; =0.643). Lumbar puncture use decreased (38.9% versus 25.9% ; <0.0001). Additional testing following CT (ie, lumbar puncture or CT angiography) decreased (51.3% versus 42.2%; <0.0001). Admissions declined (9.8% versus 7.4%; =0.011). Mean emergency department stay was unchanged (6.3±4.0 versus 6.4±4.2 hours; =0.685). The Ottawa SAH rule was 100% (95% CI, 98.1%-100%) sensitive, and the 6-hour-CT rule was 95.5% (95% CI, 89.8-98.5) sensitive for SAH. The 6-hour-CT rule missed 5 SAHs: 1 radiology misread, 2 incidental aneurysms, 1 nonaneurysmal cause, and 1 profoundly anemic patient. Conclusions- The Ottawa SAH rule and the 6-hour-CT rule are highly sensitive and can be used routinely when SAH is considered in patients with headache. Implementing both rules was associated with a meaningful decrease in testing and admissions to hospital.