Use of the vacuum-assisted closure device in enhancing closure of a massive skull defect

Umesh S Marathe, Joseph C Sniezek
Laryngoscope 2004, 114 (6): 961-4

OBJECTIVES/HYPOTHESIS: The objective was to describe a novel technique for reconstructing the cranial vertex without the use of free tissue transfer.

STUDY DESIGN: Case report, literature review, and discussion.

METHODS: A 50-year-old woman presented from a remote Pacific Island community with a 12 x 14-cm, necrotic, grossly contaminated eccrine gland carcinoma of the cranial vertex that extended through the calvarium but did not invade the dura. Following tumor extirpation, the resulting bony defect was 10 x 12 cm in size, with a concomitant scalp defect of 14 x 16 cm. Free tissue transfer was impossible because of severe intimal peripheral vascular disease, posing a challenging reconstructive dilemma. After tumor resection, the bony edges were covered with local scalp flaps and the vacuum-assisted closure device was placed over the wound at a constant setting of -50 mm Hg. The vacuum-assisted closure device was changed three times per week for 3 weeks.

RESULTS: A thick, 1-cm bed of granulation tissue developed over the dura, allowing temporary coverage by a split-thickness skin graft, and the scalp defect decreased in size by approximately 25%. The patient did not develop meningitis, headache, or localized infection as a result of placement of the vacuum-assisted closure device and tolerated the vacuum-assisted closure well. After a requisite period of healing, tissue expanders and calvarial reconstruction will be performed.

CONCLUSION: Use of the vacuum-assisted closure device is a safe, reliable adjunct in the closure of large cranial defects with exposed dura and offers a novel reconstructive option for complex defects of the head and neck.

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