Potential role of aspirin in the prevention of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage

Robert M. Starke, Nohra Chalouhi, Dale Ding, David M. Hasan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Inflammation is a key element behind the pathophysiology of cerebral aneurysm formation and rupture. Aspirin is a potent inhibitor of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX), which plays a critical role in the expression of immune modulators known to contribute to cerebral aneurysm formation and rupture. Currently, there are no pharmacological therapies for patients with cerebral aneurysms. Both endovascular and microsurgical interventions may be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Potentially, a medical alternative that prevents aneurysm progression and rupture may be a beneficial therapy for a significant number of patients. Summary: In animal models, treatment with aspirin and genetic inactivation of COX-2 decreases aneurysm formation and rupture. Selective inhibition of COX-1 did not decrease aneurysm rupture, suggesting that selection inhibition of COX-2 may be critical in thwarting aneurysm progression. Walls of ruptured human intracranial aneurysms have higher levels of COX-2 and microsomal prostaglandin E2 synthase 1 (mPGES-1), both of which are known to be inhibited by aspirin. In a pilot study, patients undergoing microsurgical clipping had attenuated expression of COX-2, mPGES-1, and macrophages in aneurysm walls after 3 months of aspirin therapy versus those that did not receive aspirin. Additionally, in patients undergoing endovascular therapy, local circulating expression of chemokines and COX-2 were increased in blood samples taken from within aneurysm domes as compared to peripheral blood sample controls. Treatment with aspirin also resulted in decreased expression of COX-2 within leukocytes within aneurysms as compared to peripheral blood samples. Novel molecular imaging with ferumoxytol-enhanced MRI may help in the identification of patients at increased risk for aneurysm rupture and assessment of a response to aspirin therapy. Key Messages: Aspirin has been found to be a safe in patients harboring cerebral aneurysms and clinical studies provide evidence that it may decrease the overall rate of rupture. Furthermore, aspirin is an accessible and inexpensive medicine for patients who may not have access to endovascular or microsurgical treatment or for patients who are deemed low risk of aneurysm rupture, high risk for intervention, or both. Future clinical trials are indicated to determine the overall effect of aspirin on aneurysm progression and rupture. This review provides an update on the potential mechanisms and benefits of aspirin in the treatment of cerebral aneurysms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-342
Number of pages11
JournalCerebrovascular Diseases
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Jun 9 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aneurysm
  • Antithrombotic
  • Aspirin
  • Cerebral
  • Cyclooxygenase
  • Inflammation
  • Rupture
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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