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General surgeon performed emergency craniotomies in regional Queensland hospitals: a 20-year state-wide study on patient outcomes.

BACKGROUND: Traumatic brain injuries account for up to 50% of trauma related deaths and if surgical intervention is indicated, consensus suggests a maximum of 4 hours to surgical decompression. The occurrence and outcomes of craniotomies performed by non-neurosurgeons in regional Queensland hospitals have never been reported previously in the literature.

METHODS: A retrospective review was performed at all regional Queensland hospitals without an on-site neurosurgical service from January 2001 to December 2022 to identify patients undergoing emergency craniotomy. Data recorded included basic demographics, history of anti-coagulant use, mechanism of injury, type of haemorrhage, Glasgow Coma Score and Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) on discharge. Radiological parameters measured included midline shift and maximal coronal depth of haematoma. The primary aim of this study was to assess the clinical and radiological outcomes of patients who underwent a craniotomy performed by general surgeons.

RESULTS: Over the past 20 years there have been 23 emergency decompressive procedures (one excluded) performed in regional Queensland. Preoperative imaging demonstrated 9 extradural haematomas and 13 subdural haematomas. Six of 17 transferred cases required reoperation after transfer to a neurosurgical centre. Survival was observed in 9 of 22 cases, with 'good' functional outcome (GOS ≥3) observed in 7 cases. In no cases were rurally performed burr holes effective.

DISCUSSION: Qualitatively, a larger craniotomy may be associated with better clinical and radiological outcomes. Although rare occurrences, our results demonstrate that general surgeon performed craniotomies are frequently efficacious in producing radiological and/or clinical improvement and should be considered as a potentially lifesaving procedure.

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