Background: Angiographic studies suggest that acute vasospasm within 48 h of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) predicts symptomatic vasospasm. However, the value of transcranial Doppler within 48 h of SAH is unknown. Methods: We analyzed 199 patients who had at least 1 middle cerebral artery (MCA) transcranial Doppler examination within 48 h of SAH onset. Abnormal MCA mean blood flow velocity (mBFV) was defined as >90 cm/s. Delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI) was defined as clinical deterioration or radiological evidence of infarction due to vasospasm. Results: Seventy-six patients (38%) had an elevation of MCA mBFV >90 cm/s within 48 h of SAH onset. The predictors of elevated mBFV included younger age (OR = 0.97 per year of age, p = 0.002), admission angiographic vasospasm (OR = 5.4, p = 0.009) and elevated white blood cell count (OR = 1.1 per 1,000 white blood cells, p = 0.003). Patients with elevated mBFV were more likely to experience a 10 cm/s fall in velocity at the first follow-up than those with normal baseline velocities (24 vs. 10%, p < 0.01), suggestive of resolving spasm. DCI developed in 19% of the patients. An elevated admission mBFV >90 cm/s during the first 48 h (adjusted OR = 2.7, p = 0.007) and a poor clinical grade (Hunt-Hess score 4 or 5, OR = 3.2, p = 0.002) were associated with a significant increase in the risk of DCI. Conclusion: Early elevations of mBFV correlate with acute angiographic vasospasm and are associated with a significantly increased risk of DCI. Transcranial Doppler ultrasound may be an early useful tool to identify patients at higher risk to develop DCI after SAH.

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