Decompressive craniectomy for the treatment of refractory high intracranial pressure in traumatic brain injury

J Sahuquillo, F Arikan
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006 January 25, (1): CD003983

BACKGROUND: High intracranial pressure (ICP) is the most frequent cause of death and disability after severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). High ICP is treated by general maneuvers (normothermia, sedation etc) and a set of first line therapeutic measures (moderate hypocapnia, mannitol etc). When these measures fail to control high ICP, second line therapies are started. Among these, second line therapies such as barbiturates, hyperventilation, moderate hypothermia or removal of a variable amount of skull bone (known as decompressive craniectomy) are used.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of secondary decompressive craniectomy (DC) on outcome and quality of life in patients with severe TBI in whom conventional medical therapeutic measures have failed to control raised ICP.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Injuries Group's Trial Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Best Evidence, Clinical Practice Guidelines, PubMed, CINAHL, the National Research Register and Google Scholar. We also handsearched relevant conference proceedings and contacted experts in the field and the authors of included studies.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomized or quasi-randomized studies assessing patients over the age of 12 months with a severe TBI who underwent DC to control ICP refractory to conventional medical treatments.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently examined the electronic search results for reports of possibly relevant trials and for retrieval in full. One author applied the selection criteria, performed the data extraction and assessed methodological quality. Study authors were contacted for additional information.

MAIN RESULTS: We found one trial with 27 participants conducted in the pediatric population (>18 years). DC was associated with a risk ratio (RR) for death of 0.54 (95% CI 0.17 to 1.72), and RR of 0.54 for death, vegetative status or severe disability 6 to 12 months after injury (95% CI 0.29 to 1.07).

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There is no evidence to support the routine use of secondary DC to reduce unfavourable outcome in adults with severe TBI and refractory high ICP. In the pediatric population DC reduces the risk of death and unfavourable outcome. Despite the wide confidence intervals for death and the small sample size of the only study identified, this treatment maybe justified in patients below the age of 18 when maximal medical treatment has failed to control ICP. To date, there are no results from randomised trials to confirm or refute the effectiveness of DC in adults. However, the results of non-randomized trials and controlled trials with historical controls involving adults, suggest that DC may be a useful option when maximal medical treatment has failed to control ICP. There are two ongoing randomized controlled trials of DC (Rescue ICP and DECRAN) that may allow further conclusions on the efficacy of this procedure in adults.

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