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The recent UK national confidential enquiry into patient outcome and death (NCEPOD) from subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) identified a number of issues pertinent to the early diagnosis and investigation of patients presenting with acute headache.1 The NCEPOD investigators should be congratulated on this excellent nationwide survey. Their efforts will not only improve the care of patients with SAH but also those with other acute headache disorders.
There is evidence of widespread good practice, with prompt diagnosis and treatment for many patients. However, as in many such surveys, it is often the gaps and failings that are most revealing. For example,
32% of secondary care hospitals had no protocol or policy to investigate and treat acute onset headache.
43% (32 of 75) of patients in primary care had their diagnosis of aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage overlooked, a delay that may have affected the outcome in 72% (23/32).
13% (49 of 383) …
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