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Matthew A. Howard III, Alan S. Gross, Ralph G. Dacey Jr., and H. Richard Winn

✓ Reports prior to 1980 describe overall mortality rates for acute subdural hematomas (SDH's) ranging from 40% to 90% with poor outcomes observed in all age groups. Recently, improved results have been reported with rapid diagnosis and surgical treatment. A relatively large number of older patients (34 patients over 65 years old) were treated recently at Harborview Medical Center, enabling a retrospective comparison with similarly treated younger patients (33 patients aged 18 to 40 years). Clinical information and computerized tomography morphometric data were obtained. Patients in the younger group were most often injured in motor-vehicle accidents (15 cases), whereas falls were most frequent in the older group (19 cases). Patients in both groups were rapidly resuscitated in the field; more than 30% were treated within 1 hour after the time of injury. Injury severity, determined by the admission Glasgow Coma Scale score, was similar for the two groups. Mean acute SDH volume was significantly larger in the older patients than in the younger group (mean ± standard deviation: 96.2 ± 117.2 vs. 21.6 + 27.7 cu cm), as was the amount of midline shift (1.2 ± 1.69 vs. 0.6 ± 0.75 cm). Surgical treatments were similar, but outcomes were dramatically different for the younger and older patients. Mortality rates were more than four times higher in older patients than in younger ones (74% vs. 18%). Three older patients and 25 younger patients were functional survivors. Old age, a larger SDH volume, and a larger midline shift all correlated with a poor outcome. The results of this study suggest that the pathophysiology of acute SDH varies with age, and that currently employed resuscitation and treatment methods have differentially improved the outcome for younger patients.

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David W. Newell, Peter D. LeRoux, Ralph G. Dacey Jr., Gary K. Stimac, and H. Richard Winn

✓ Computerized tomography (CT) infusion scanning can confirm the presence or absence of an aneurysm as a cause of spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage. Eight patients who presented with spontaneous hemorrhage were examined using this technique. In five patients the CT scan showed an aneurysm which was later confirmed by angiography or surgery; angiography confirmed the absence of an aneurysm in the remaining three patients. This method is an easy effective way to detect whether an aneurysm is the cause of spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage.

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Matthew A. Howard III, Ralph G. Dacey Jr., and H. Richard Winn

✓ Animal models of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease have shown dramatic functional improvement after transplantation of embryonic neurons into denervated regions of the adult brain. Because of the ethical and logistic problems associated with the use of human embryonic brain tissue, cross-species transplants are an attractive alternative. An experimental model of cross-species brain transplantation was developed to evaluate cell survival in untreated and cyclosporin A (CyA)-treated animals. Cholinergic ventral neurons from embryonic mice were transplanted into the frontal lobes of 18 adult Sprague-Dawley rats using a cell suspension technique. Nine animals were treated for 13 days with CyA (10 mg/kg/day) and nine were not treated. Twelve weeks after transplantation, frozen sections through the transplant volume were obtained. Alternate sections were prepared with hematoxylin and eosin and acetylcholine esterase stains. Cell counts through a 2-cu mm volume incorporating the transplant were compared to a contralateral control volume. Eight of the nine untreated transplants were successful (mean transplant cells ± standard error of the mean: 90.7 ± 19.4/2 cu mm). All of the nine CyA-treated transplants survived, with mean transplant count 28.7 cells/2 cu mm greater than untreated transplants (mean increase 28.7: p ≤ 0.05, Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed ranks test). It is concluded that: 1) this model is useful for quantitating transplant cell survival; 2) untreated xenografts survive well; and 3) a 13-day course of CyA improved long-term graft survival.

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Neurosurgical complications after apparently minor head injury

Assessment of risk in a series of 610 patients

Ralph G. Dacey Jr., Wayne M. Alves, Rebecca W. Rimel, H. Richard Winn, and John A. Jane

✓ A small number of patients with an apparently minor head injury will develop a life-threatening intracranial hematoma that must be rapidly detected and removed. To assess the risk of a significant intracranial neurosurgical complication after apparently minor head injury, the authors collected data prospectively on 610 patients who had sustained a transient posttraumatic loss of consciousness or other neurological function and who had a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 13, 14, or 15 in the emergency room. Skull x-ray films were obtained in 583 patients, 66 of whom (10.8% of the study population) had cranial fractures. Eighteen of the 610 patients (3.0%) required a neurosurgical procedure. Three acute subdural hematomas, one epidural hematoma, and one traumatic intracerebral hematoma required craniotomy. Of the 66 patients who had skull fracture, 7.6% required a craniotomy for intracranial hematoma. Thirteen (19.7%) of the 66 patients with skull fracture required an operative procedure as compared to five (1.0%) of the 517 patients without skull fracture. Two patients with a normal GCS score of 15 and normal skull x-ray films subsequently underwent operative treatment.

The cost of three alternative management schemes for these patients was estimated. A 50% reduction in cost of management could be effected by the use of computerized tomography (CT) scans (or possibly skull x-ray films) in determining which of the patients who are alert at the time of presentation should be admitted for observation. Several other conclusions can be drawn from this study. First, an initial GCS score between 13 and 15 does not necessarily indicate that a patient has sustained a trivial head injury, since 3% of such patients will require an operative procedure despite an initially normal level of alertness. Second, an abnormal skull x-ray film increases by a factor of 20 the probability that a patient will need neurosurgical treatment. Third, it is very unusual for patients who have a GCS score of 15 and a normal skull x-ray film to have a significant neurosurgical complication. Fourth, the alternative management schemes that depend on selective use of skull films and CT scans may significantly reduce the cost of caring for patients with minor head injury.

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Ralph G. Dacey Jr., David Pitkethly, and H. Richard Winn

✓ The management of intracranial aneurysms in elderly patients remains controversial, since the natural history of these lesions is not well understood. The authors describe the case of a 76-year-old woman with documented enlargement of an internal carotid artery aneurysm over 3 years. The management of intracranial aneurysms in elderly patients is discussed.