Early surgery for intracerebral haemorrhage

ICHgraphicIconTo operate or not to operate on patients with an intracerebral haematoma? Deep ones can be tricky and risk damage to surrounding brain, so superficial ones may be more likely to benefit.

These patients with superficial lesions were assessed in STICH II, an international prospective randomised controlled trial comparing early surgery with conservative treatment.

Inclusion criteria were strict:

  • spontaneous lobar intracerebral haemorrhage on CT scan (≤1 cm from the cortical surface of the brain) with a volume of between 10 mL and 100 mL
  • within 48 h of onset
  • had a best motor score on the Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) of 5 or 6, and had a best eye score of 2 or more (ie, were conscious at randomisation).

The primary outcome was a Glasgow Outcome Scale-based evaluation of recovery (‘favourable’ vs ‘unfavourable’), which did not significantly differ between groups.

A predefined subgroup of patients with a poorer prognosis (using a score based on age, haematoma size and GCS) may have a better outcome with surgery. Some patients randomised to conservative therapy subsequently underwent delayed surgery. Thanks to appropriate intention-to-treat analysis they would have remained in the conservative treatment group which may have contributed to an underestimation of the benefit of surgery.

So, overall a negative trial, and patients with small lesions and higher GCS scores won’t benefit from surgery. Patients in poorer prognostic groups might benefit, but that remains unproven.

Some other ICH trials to be aware of are Clear III and MISTIE III, which are investigating thrombolytic agents in combination with clot removal, including with minimally invasive techniques.

Early surgery versus initial conservative treatment in patients with spontaneous supratentorial lobar intracerebral haematomas (STICH II): a randomised trial
Lancet. 2013 Aug 3;382(9890):397-408

BACKGROUND: The balance of risk and benefit from early neurosurgical intervention for conscious patients with superficial lobar intracerebral haemorrhage of 10-100 mL and no intraventricular haemorrhage admitted within 48 h of ictus is unclear. We therefore tested the hypothesis that early surgery compared with initial conservative treatment could improve outcome in these patients.

METHODS: In this international, parallel-group trial undertaken in 78 centres in 27 countries, we compared early surgical haematoma evacuation within 12 h of randomisation plus medical treatment with initial medical treatment alone (later evacuation was allowed if judged necessary). An automatic telephone and internet-based randomisation service was used to assign patients to surgery and initial conservative treatment in a 1:1 ratio. The trial was not masked. The primary outcome was a prognosis-based dichotomised (favourable or unfavourable) outcome of the 8 point Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOSE) obtained by questionnaires posted to patients at 6 months. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered, number ISRCTN22153967.

FINDINGS: 307 of 601 patients were randomly assigned to early surgery and 294 to initial conservative treatment; 298 and 291 were followed up at 6 months, respectively; and 297 and 286 were included in the analysis, respectively. 174 (59%) of 297 patients in the early surgery group had an unfavourable outcome versus 178 (62%) of 286 patients in the initial conservative treatment group (absolute difference 3·7% [95% CI -4·3 to 11·6], odds ratio 0·86 [0·62 to 1·20]; p=0·367).

INTERPRETATION: The STICH II results confirm that early surgery does not increase the rate of death or disability at 6 months and might have a small but clinically relevant survival advantage for patients with spontaneous superficial intracerebral haemorrhage without intraventricular haemorrhage.