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Subarachnoid Hemorrhage


A subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is bleeding in the space that surrounds the brain. This can raise pressure around the brain. SAH can be deadly.


SAH may be caused by:

Risk Factors

SAH is more common in people who are 50 years of age and older. Other things that may raise the risk are:


Problems may be:
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Light sensitivity
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to suspect the diagnosis.
Pictures may be taken of the brain and the structures around it. This can be done with:
The fluid in the spine may need to be tested. This can be done with a lumbar puncture .
CT Scan of the Head
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Emergency care is needed right away. The goals of treatment are to:
  • Stop the bleeding
  • Limit harm to the brain
  • Reduce the risk of another SAH
Options are:
  • Surgery to stop an aneurysm from bleeding
  • Medicines to help blood flow to the brain, ease pain, and treat other symptoms, such as seizures
Rehabilitation will be needed when a person is stable. This may include speech, physical, and occupational therapy.


SAH cannot always be prevented. To lower the risk:
  • Manage high blood pressure.
  • Avoid using tobacco.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Eat a healthful diet.


The Brain Aneurysm Foundation
National Stroke Association


Brain Injury Canada
Heart and Stroke Foundation


Macdonald RL, Schweizer TA. Spontaneous subarachnoid haemorrhage. Lancet. 2017 Feb 11;389(10069):655-666.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Accessed October 5, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 10/05/2020
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