Most patients with chronic subdural hematoma (cSDH) recover after surgical evacuation with a straightforward course. There is a subset of patients who develop transient and fluctuating deficits not explained by seizures, stroke, or mass effect after evacuation. The objective of this study was to investigate whether these postoperative neurological deficits may be related to temporary brain dysfunction caused by cortical spreading depolarizations (SDs).
The authors conducted a prospective observational study of 40 patients who underwent cSDH evacuation. At the time of surgery, a 1 × 6 subdural electrode strip was placed on the cortex parallel to the subdural drain. Clinical outcomes were assessed utilizing the Markwalder Grading Scale, need for clinical EEG for new deficit, and presence of new deficits.
Definitive SD was detected in 6 (15%) of 40 patients. Baseline and cSDH characteristics did not differ between patients with and without SD. More patients experienced postoperative neurological deterioration if they had SD (50%) compared to those without SD (8.8%; p = 0.03). Only 2 patients in the entire cohort demonstrated early neurological deterioration, both of whom had SD. One of these cases demonstrated a time-locked new focal neurological deficit (aphasia) at the start of a series of multiple clusters of SD.
This is the first observation of SD occurring after cSDH evacuation. SD occurred at a rate of 15% and was associated with neurological deterioration. This may represent a novel mechanism for otherwise unexplained fluctuating neurological deficit after cSDH evacuation. This could provide a new therapeutic target, and SD-targeted therapies should be evaluated in prospective clinical trials.