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Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


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 aged 50 years 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.

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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, to ease pain, and to 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




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


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.