Waterjet dissection in pediatric cranioplasty

Christoph A Tschan, Elvis J Hermann, Wolfgang Wagner, Joachim K Krauss, Joachim M K Oertel
Journal of Neurosurgery. Pediatrics 2010, 5 (3): 243-9

OBJECT: Waterjet dissection has been shown to separate tissues of different resistance, with preservation of blood vessels. In cranioplasty, separation of subcutaneous tissue and dura mater is often difficult to achieve because the various tissue layers strongly adhere to each other after decompressive craniotomy. In the present study, the potential advantages and drawbacks of the waterjet technique in cranioplasty after craniectomy and duraplasty are addressed.

METHODS: The waterjet effect on fresh human cadaveric dura mater specimens as well as on several dural repair patches was tested in vitro under standardized conditions, with waterjet pressures up to 80 bar. Subsequently, 8 pediatric patients (5 boys, 3 girls; mean age 9.9 years, range 1.2-16.7 years) who had been subjected to decompressive craniectomy (7 with duraplasty including bovine pericardium as a dural substitute, 1 without duraplasty in congenital craniosynostosis) underwent waterjet cranioplasty. The waterjet was used to separate the galea and the dura mater. The technique was applied tangentially between the dura and the galea, with different pressure levels up to 50 bar.

RESULTS: In vitro, fresh cadaveric human dura mater as well as 2 different dural repair substitutes showed a very high resistance to waterjet dissection up to 80 bar. The human dura and the various substitutes were dissected only after long-lasting exposure to the waterjet. Human dura was perforated at pressures of 60 bar and higher. Bovine pericardium dural substitute was perforated at pressures of 55 bar and higher. Artificial nonabsorbable polyesterurethane dural substitute was dissected at pressures of 60 bar and higher. In the clinical setting, the waterjet was able to separate galea and dura with minimal bleeding. No blood transfusion was required. Dissection of scarred tissue was possible by a waterjet of 40 bar pressure. Tissue layers were stretched and separated by the waterjet dissection, and a very reliable hemostasis resulted. This resulted in an effective reduction of bleeding, with < 60 ml blood loss in 7 of the 8 cases. Neither a dural tear nor a perforation of any duraplasty occurred during operative preparation. There were no operative or postoperative complications.

CONCLUSIONS: The experimental and clinical data show that waterjet separation of dura mater, dural substitute, and galea can be performed with a high level of safety to avoid dural tears. The waterjet dissection stretches tissue layers, which results in a reliable hemostasis effect. This potentially results in an effective reduction of surgical blood loss, which should be the focus of further studies.

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