Journal of Neurosurgery, Ahead of Print.
OBJECTIVEDiagnostic algorithms for nontraumatic angiographically negative subarachnoid hemorrhage (AN-SAH) vary, and the optimal method remains subject to debate. This study assessed the added value of cervical spine MRI in identifying a cause for nontraumatic AN-SAH.METHODSConsecutive patients 18 years of age or older who presented with nontraumatic SAH between February 1, 2009, and October 31, 2014, with negative cerebrovascular catheter angiography and subsequent cervical MRI were studied. Patients with intraparenchymal, subdural, or epidural hemorrhage; recent trauma; or known vascular malformations were excluded. All cervical MR images were reviewed by two blinded neuroradiologists. The diagnostic yield of cervical MRI was calculated. A literature review was conducted to identify studies reporting the diagnostic yield of cervical MRI in patients with AN-SAH. The weighted pooled estimate of diagnostic yield of cervical MRI was calculated.RESULTSFor all 240 patients (mean age 53 years, 48% male), catheter angiography was performed within 4 days after admission (median 12 hours, interquartile range [IQR] 10 hours). Cervical MRI was performed within 19 days of admission (median 24 hours, IQR 10 hours). In a single patient, cervical MRI identified a source for SAH (cervical vascular malformation). Meta-analysis of 7 studies comprising 538 patients with AN-SAH produced a pooled estimate of 1.3% (95% confidence interval 0.5%–2.5%) for diagnostic yield of cervical MRI. No statistically significant between-study heterogeneity or publication bias was identified.CONCLUSIONSCervical MRI following AN-SAH, in the absence of findings to suggest spinal etiology, has a very low diagnostic yield and is not routinely necessary.