BMJ Case Reports 2013; doi:10.1136/bcr-2013-009877

Listening to the head and not the heart: subarachnoid haemorrhage associated with severe acute left ventricular failure

  1. Christopher King
  1. Department of Emergency Medicine, Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christopher King, christopher.king1{at}


Headache is a very common presenting symptom in the emergency department, and distinguishing subarachnoid haemorrhage from more benign causes of headache can be challenging. This particular presentation of subarachnoid haemorrhage was made more difficult by concurrent-related cardiac pathophysiology. This case report describes the evolving differential diagnosis of a 54-year-old woman initially presenting with headache and confusion, with signs and investigations suggestive of ST elevation myocardial infarction and resultant left ventricular failure. The importance of prompt primary percutaenous coronary intervention left clinicians with a difficult decision about which specialty was most appropriate for the patient to be transferred to. Ultimately the symptoms were explained by radiographic confirmation of subarachnoid haemorrhage and subsequent adrenergic storm, causing myocyte injury and myocardial contractile dysfunction. This patient was transferred for coiling of a ruptured cerebral artery berry aneurysm. Her left ventricular failure improved from severe to mild within 48 h of presentation.

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