Plasma endothelin (ET) is elevated in patients with vasospasm following subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH). However, systemic levels provide no indication regarding local production in the brain, and late elevation may be a consequence rather than a cause of vasospasm. We measured arteriojugular (AJ) gradients of ET-1 in 17 patients over the first week after SAH, and related these to the subsequent development of vasospasm. Daily, paired arterial and jugular bulb blood samples were obtained up to seven days post SAH, and assayed for ET-1 using radioimmunoassay. Systemic levels and AJ gradients were compared in patients with and without vasospasm. Significant AJ gradients were observed for ET-1 (P<0.01). These differences remained significant in the subgroup of patients who developed vasospasm (0.12±0.05pmol/l; P<0.05), in whom AJ gradients represented 25±7% of systemic levels (0.84±0.05pmol/l). AJ gradients did not reach significance in patients who did not develop vasospasm (0.09±0.07pmol/l; P = 0.2). Systemic ET-1 levels and AJ gradients were unrelated to SAH grade, surgical or endovascular interventions, or extracranial complications. AJ gradients in the first week following SAH suggest early production of ET-1 in the cerebrovascular bed. However, early systemic ET-1 levels did not discriminate between patients with and without vasospasm. Larger AJ differences may predict vasospasm, but further work is needed to confirm this observation. AJ gradient measurement may provide a useful technique for investigating the role of other peptides in acute brain injury.

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