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Early Decompressive Craniectomy as Management for Severe Traumatic Brain Injury in the Pediatric Population: A Comprehensive Literature Review.

BACKGROUND: Severe traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a principal cause of neurologic dysfunction and death in the pediatric population. After medical management, the second-tier treatment is decompressive craniectomy in cases of intractable intracranial pressure (ICP) elevation. This literature review offers evidence of early (within 24 hours) and ultraearly (6-12 hours) decompressive craniectomy as an effective form of management for severe TBI in the pediatric population.

METHODS: We conducted a literature review of articles published from 1996 to 2019 to elucidate neurologic outcomes after early decompressive craniectomy in pediatric patients who suffered a severe TBI. Time to decompressive craniectomy and neurologic outcomes were recorded and reported descriptively. Qualitative data describe clinically important correlations between pre- and postoperative ICP levels and improved postoperative neurologic outcomes.

RESULTS: Seventy-eight patients were included in this study. The median age of patients at diagnosis was 10 years of age (range, 1 months to 19 years). Median admission Glasgow Coma Scale score was 5 (range, 3-8). Time to decompressive craniectomy ranged from 1 to 24 hours. Median peak preoperative ICP was 40 (range, 3-90; n = 49). Median postoperative ICP was 20 (range, 0-80; n = 33). Median Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score at discharge was 2 (range, 1-5; n = 11). Median GOS score at 3- and 6-month follow-up was 3 (range, 1-5; n = 11). Median GOS score at 7- to 23-month follow-up was 4 (range, 1-5; n = 29). Median GOS score at 24- to 83-month follow-up was 4 (range, 1-5; n = 31). Median modified Rankin Scale score at discharge was 3 (range, 2-4; n = 6). Median modified Rankin Scale score at 6- to 48-month follow-up was 2 (range, 0-3; n = 6). Median Rancho Los Amigos Scale (RLAS) score at discharge was 6 (range, 4-8; n = 5). Median RLAS score at 6-month follow-up was 10 (range, 8-10; n = 5).

CONCLUSIONS: Early (within 24 hours), with consideration of ultraearly (within 6-12 hours), decompressive craniectomy for severe TBI should be offered to pediatric patients in settings with refractory ICP elevation. Reduction of ICP allows for prompt disruption of pathophysiologic cascades and improved neurologic outcomes.

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