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Concept: Decompressive craniectomy


Background The effect of decompressive craniectomy on clinical outcomes in patients with refractory traumatic intracranial hypertension remains unclear. Methods From 2004 through 2014, we randomly assigned 408 patients, 10 to 65 years of age, with traumatic brain injury and refractory elevated intracranial pressure (>25 mm Hg) to undergo decompressive craniectomy or receive ongoing medical care. The primary outcome was the rating on the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS-E) (an 8-point scale, ranging from death to “upper good recovery” [no injury-related problems]) at 6 months. The primary-outcome measure was analyzed with an ordinal method based on the proportional-odds model. If the model was rejected, that would indicate a significant difference in the GOS-E distribution, and results would be reported descriptively. Results The GOS-E distribution differed between the two groups (P<0.001). The proportional-odds assumption was rejected, and therefore results are reported descriptively. At 6 months, the GOS-E distributions were as follows: death, 26.9% among 201 patients in the surgical group versus 48.9% among 188 patients in the medical group; vegetative state, 8.5% versus 2.1%; lower severe disability (dependent on others for care), 21.9% versus 14.4%; upper severe disability (independent at home), 15.4% versus 8.0%; moderate disability, 23.4% versus 19.7%; and good recovery, 4.0% versus 6.9%. At 12 months, the GOS-E distributions were as follows: death, 30.4% among 194 surgical patients versus 52.0% among 179 medical patients; vegetative state, 6.2% versus 1.7%; lower severe disability, 18.0% versus 14.0%; upper severe disability, 13.4% versus 3.9%; moderate disability, 22.2% versus 20.1%; and good recovery, 9.8% versus 8.4%. Surgical patients had fewer hours than medical patients with intracranial pressure above 25 mm Hg after randomization (median, 5.0 vs. 17.0 hours; P<0.001) but had a higher rate of adverse events (16.3% vs. 9.2%, P=0.03). Conclusions At 6 months, decompressive craniectomy in patients with traumatic brain injury and refractory intracranial hypertension resulted in lower mortality and higher rates of vegetative state, lower severe disability, and upper severe disability than medical care. The rates of moderate disability and good recovery were similar in the two groups. (Funded by the Medical Research Council and others; RESCUEicp Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN66202560 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Intracranial hemorrhage, Neurotrauma, Brain herniation, Persistent vegetative state, Decompressive craniectomy


Background In patients with traumatic brain injury, hypothermia can reduce intracranial hypertension. The benefit of hypothermia on functional outcome is unclear. Methods We randomly assigned adults with an intracranial pressure of more than 20 mm Hg despite stage 1 treatments (including mechanical ventilation and sedation management) to standard care (control group) or hypothermia (32 to 35°C) plus standard care. In the control group, stage 2 treatments (e.g., osmotherapy) were added as needed to control intracranial pressure. In the hypothermia group, stage 2 treatments were added only if hypothermia failed to control intracranial pressure. In both groups, stage 3 treatments (barbiturates and decompressive craniectomy) were used if all stage 2 treatments failed to control intracranial pressure. The primary outcome was the score on the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS-E; range, 1 to 8, with lower scores indicating a worse functional outcome) at 6 months. The treatment effect was estimated with ordinal logistic regression adjusted for prespecified prognostic factors and expressed as a common odds ratio (with an odds ratio <1.0 favoring hypothermia). Results We enrolled 387 patients at 47 centers in 18 countries from November 2009 through October 2014, at which time recruitment was suspended owing to safety concerns. Stage 3 treatments were required to control intracranial pressure in 54% of the patients in the control group and in 44% of the patients in the hypothermia group. The adjusted common odds ratio for the GOS-E score was 1.53 (95% confidence interval, 1.02 to 2.30; P=0.04), indicating a worse outcome in the hypothermia group than in the control group. A favorable outcome (GOS-E score of 5 to 8, indicating moderate disability or good recovery) occurred in 26% of the patients in the hypothermia group and in 37% of the patients in the control group (P=0.03). Conclusions In patients with an intracranial pressure of more than 20 mm Hg after traumatic brain injury, therapeutic hypothermia plus standard care to reduce intracranial pressure did not result in outcomes better than those with standard care alone. (Funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment program; Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN34555414 .).

Concepts: Logit, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Brain tumor, Intracranial hemorrhage, Neurotrauma, Brain herniation, Decompressive craniectomy


Acute bone flap infection is a devastating complication after cranioplasty for postinjury decompressive craniectomy. We aim to identify the risk factors of autologous bone flap infection.

Concepts: Craniotomy, Decompressive craniectomy


Abstract Aseptic bone flap resorption (BFR) is a known long-term complication after cranioplasty (CP). We analyzed our institutional data in order to identify risk factors for BFR. From October 1999 to April 2012, 254 patients underwent CP after decompressive craniectomy (DC) at our institution, and had a long-term follow-up period of >1 year after CP (range 12-146 months). Overall, BFR occurred in 10 of 254 patients as a long-term complication after CP (4%). BFR developed more often in patients aged ≤18 years (p=0.008), in patients who previously underwent DC for traumatic brain injury (p=0.04), and in patients with multiple fractures within the reinserted bone flap (p=0.002). Furthermore, BFR developed significantly more often in patients who underwent cranioplasty ≤2 months after DC (p=0.008), as well as in patients with wound healing disturbance or abscess as an early complication after the CP procedure (p=0.01). The multivariate analysis of the present data identified the presence of multiple fractures within the bone flap (p=0.002, OR 10.3, 95% CI 2.4-43.8), wound infection after CP (p=0.003, OR 12.3, 95% CI 2.3-65.3), and cranioplasty performed ≤2 months after DC (p=0.01, OR 6.3, 95% CI 1.5-26.3) as independent risk factors for the development of BFR after CP in a large series with long-term follow-up. This might influence future surgical decision making, especially in patients fulfilling high risk criteria for developing BFR.

Concepts: Decision making, Risk, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Decision theory, Wound, Craniotomy, Decompressive craniectomy


There is little doubt that decompressive craniectomy can reduce mortality. However, there is concern that any reduction in mortality comes at an increase in the number of survivors with severe neurological disability.

Concepts: Decompressive craniectomy


Decompressive craniectomy (DC) may be performed in patients with acutely raised intracranial pressure due to traumatic brain injury or stroke. It is later followed by a cranioplasty procedure (CP) in the surviving patients. This procedure is associated with a high frequency of post-operative complications. Identifying risk factors for these adverse events is important in order to improve the clinical outcome. This study examines possible predictive parameters for post-operative complications in CP.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Skull, Neurosurgery, Neurotrauma, Craniotomy, Decompressive craniectomy


The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence and describe the importance of alcohol screening for all patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and examine the relationship between gender, age, Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS), emergent decompressive craniectomy, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) from the emergency department (ED), and the length of stay with alcohol screening.

Concepts: Stroke, Traumatic brain injury, Intensive care medicine, Intracranial pressure, Neurosurgery, Glasgow Coma Scale, Coma, Decompressive craniectomy


Widely varying published and presented analyses of the BEST TRIP randomized controlled trial of intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring have suggested denying trial generalizability, questioning the need for ICP monitoring in severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI), re-assessing current clinical approaches to monitored ICP, and initiating a general ICP-monitoring moratorium. In response to this dissonance, 23 clinically-active, international opinion leaders in acute-care sTBI management met to draft a consensus statement to interpret this study. A Delphi-method-based approach employed iterative pre-meeting polling to codify the groups general opinions, followed by an in-person meeting wherein individual statements were refined. Statements required an agreement threshold of > 70% by blinded voting for approval. Seven precisely-worded statements resulted, with agreement levels of 83-100%. These statements, which should be read in toto to properly reflect the group’s consensus positions, conclude that this study: 1) studied protocols, not ICP-monitoring per se; 2) applies only to those protocols and specific study groups and should not be generalized to other treatment approaches or patient groups; 3) strongly calls for further research on ICP interpretation and use; 4) should be applied cautiously to regions with much different treatment milieu; 5) did not investigate the utility of treating monitored ICP in the specific patient group with established intracranial hypertension; 6) should not change the practice of those currently monitoring ICP; and 7) provided a protocol, used in non-monitored study patients, that should be considered when treating without ICP monitoring. Consideration of these statements can clarify study interpretation and avoid “collateral damage”.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Brain tumor, Intracranial hemorrhage, Cerebral perfusion pressure, Brain herniation, Decompressive craniectomy


For cases of severe traumatic brain injury, during primary operation, neurosurgeons usually face a dilemma of whether or not to remove the bone flap after mass lesion evacuation. Decompressive craniectomy, which involves expansion of fixed cranial cavity, is used to treat intra-operative brain swelling and post-operative malignant intracranial hypertension. However, due to indefinite indication, the decision to perform this procedure heavily relies on personal experiences. In addition, decompressive craniectomy is associated with various complications, and the procedure lacks strong evidence of better outcomes. In the present study, we designed a prospective, randomized, controlled trial to clarify the effect of decompressive craniectomy in severe traumatic brain injury patients with mass lesions.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Medical signs, Skull, Neurotrauma, Brain herniation, Decompressive craniectomy


Raised intracranial pressure (ICP) is associated with worse outcomes after acute brain injury, and clinical guidelines advocate early treatment of intracranial hypertension. ICP-lowering therapies are usually administered in a stepwise manner, starting with safer first-line interventions, while reserving higher-risk options for patients with intractable intracranial hypertension. Decompressive craniectomy is a surgical procedure in which part of the skull is removed and the underlying dura opened to reduce brain swelling-related raised ICP; it can be performed as a primary or secondary procedure. After traumatic brain injury, secondary decompressive craniectomy is most commonly undertaken as a last-tier intervention in a patient with severe intracranial hypertension refractory to tiered escalation of ICP-lowering therapies. Although decompressive craniectomy has been used in a number of conditions, it has only been evaluated in randomized controlled trials after traumatic brain injury and acute ischemic stroke. After traumatic brain injury, decompressive craniectomy is associated with lower mortality compared to medical management but with higher rates of vegetative state or severe disability. In patients with stroke-related malignant hemispheric infarction, hemicraniectomy significantly decreases mortality and improves functional outcome in adults <60 years of age. Surgery also reduces mortality in those >60 years, but results in a higher proportion of severely disabled survivors compared to medical therapy in this age group. Decisions to recommend decompressive craniectomy must always be made not only in the context of its clinical indications but also after consideration of an individual patient’s preferences and quality of life expectations. This narrative review discusses the management of intractable intracranial hypertension in adults, focusing on the role of decompressive craniectomy in patients with traumatic brain injury and acute ischemic stroke.

Concepts: Medicine, Stroke, Traumatic brain injury, Surgery, Intracranial pressure, Skull, Neurotrauma, Decompressive craniectomy