JOURNAL ARTICLE
MULTICENTER STUDY

Decompressive craniectomy for severe traumatic brain injury: the relationship between surgical complications and the prediction of an unfavourable outcome

Stephen Honeybul, Kwok M Ho
Injury 2014, 45 (9): 1332-9
24704150

OBJECT: To assess the impact that injury severity has on complications in patients who have had a decompressive craniectomy for severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).

METHODS: This prospective observational cohort study included all patients who underwent a decompressive craniectomy following severe TBI at the two major trauma hospitals in Western Australia from 2004 to 2012. All complications were recorded during this period. The clinical and radiological data of the patients on initial presentation were entered into a web-based model prognostic model, the CRASH (Corticosteroid Randomization After Significant Head injury) collaborators prediction model, to obtain the predicted risk of an unfavourable outcome which was used as a measure of injury severity.

RESULTS: Complications after decompressive craniectomy for severe TBI were common. The predicted risk of unfavourable outcome was strongly associated with the development of neurological complications such as herniation of the brain outside the skull bone defects (median predicted risk of unfavourable outcome for herniation 72% vs. 57% without herniation, p=0.001), subdural effusion (median predicted risk of unfavourable outcome 67% with an effusion vs. 57% for those without an effusion, p=0.03), hydrocephalus requiring ventriculo-peritoneal shunt (median predicted risk of unfavourable outcome 86% for those with hydrocephalus vs. 59% for those without hydrocephalus, p=0.001), but not infection (p=0.251) or resorption of bone flap (p=0.697) and seizures (0.987). We did not observe any associations between timing of cranioplasty and risk of infection or resorption of bone flap after cranioplasty.

CONCLUSIONS: Mechanical complications after decompressive craniectomy including herniation of the brain outside the skull bone defects, subdural effusion, and hydrocephalus requiring ventriculo-peritoneal shunt were more common in patients with a more severe form of TBI when quantified by the CRASH predicted risk of unfavourable outcome. The CRASH predicted risk of unfavourable outcome represents a useful baseline characteristic of patients in observational and interventional trials involving patients with severe TBI requiring decompressive craniectomy.

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