Date amended:
Statements of Principles
Current RMA Instruments
Reasonable Hypothesis SOP
67 of 2019
Balance of Probabilities SOP
68 of 2019
Changes from previous Instruments


ICD Coding
  • ICD-9-CM Codes: 430,852.00-852.3
  • ICD-10-AM Codes: I60, S06.6
Brief description

Subarachnoid haemorrhage is bleeding in the space between the innermost and middle layers of the meninges that cover the brain and spinal cord.  Not all forms of subarachnoid haemorrhage are covered by this SOP.  Bleeding that extends into the subarachnoid space from a cerebral haemorrhage or a bleeding cerebral tumour is excluded.  Bleeding in the subarachnoid space around the spinal cord is also not covered.  Bleeding due to trauma or certain bleeding disorders, previously excluded from this SOP, is now covered. Most SAHs are caused by ruptured saccular aneurysms.  Subarachnoid haemorrhage is typically a medical emergency and it has a high mortality rate.

Confirming the diagnosis

The diagnosis may be suspected on clinical grounds, but confirmation requires imaging, usually in the form of a CT scan of the head.  Angiography may also be performed to identify the cause of the bleed. A lumbar puncture may also be performed.

The relevant medical specialist is a neurologist or neurosurgeon.

Additional diagnoses that may be covered by SOP
  • Ruptured cerebral berry or saccular aneurysm
  • Ruptured arteriovenous malformation
Conditions not covered by SOP
  • Epidural haemorrhage#
  • Intracerebral haemorrhage* - cerberovascular accident SOP
  • Subarachnoid haemorrhage around the spinal cord#
  • Subarachnoid haemorrhage due to cerebral tumour - code to underlying neoplasm
  • Subarachnoid haemorrhage that is an extension from an intracerebral haemorrhage* - cerberovascular accident SOP
  • Subdural haemorrhage*

* another SOP applies

# non-SOP condition

Clinical onset

The time of clinical onset will generally be obvious from the initial clinical presentation.  The condition usually presents acutely, with sudden onset of very severe headache. There may also be altered consciousness, collapse or vomiting at onset. 

Clinical worsening

The only SOP worsening factor is for inability to obtain appropriate clinical management.  Urgent hospital treatment is required.  The mortality rate for the condition is around 50%.  Neurological deficits are common in survivors even with appropriate treatment.