Reduced intra- and perivascular availability of nitric oxide (NO) significantly contributes to the multifactorial pathophysiology of cerebral vasospasm after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). The short half-life of NO demands its therapeutic substitution via NO donors. Classic NO donors such as sodium nitroprusside and nitroglycerin cannot be used as routine therapeutics because of serious side effects. Thus, a new generation of NO donors has been the subject of experimental investigations to avoid the drawbacks of the classic drugs. The purpose of this paper is to review the characteristics of different NO donors with regard to their promise and potential consequences in treating cerebral vasospasm. Additional novel concepts to increase NO concentrations, such as the activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), are discussed.
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