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Stephen Honeybul, David Anthony Morrison, Kwok M. Ho, Christopher R. P. Lind and Elizabeth Geelhoed

OBJECTIVE

Autologous bone is usually used to reconstruct skull defects following decompressive surgery. However, it is associated with a high failure rate due to infection and resorption. The aim of this study was to see whether it would be cost-effective to use titanium as a primary reconstructive material.

METHODS

Sixty-four patients were enrolled and randomized to receive either their own bone or a primary titanium cranioplasty. All surgical procedures were performed by the senior surgeon. Primary and secondary outcome measures were assessed at 1 year after cranioplasty.

RESULTS

There were no primary infections in either arm of the trial. There was one secondary infection of a titanium cranioplasty that had replaced a resorbed autologous cranioplasty. In the titanium group, no patient was considered to have partial or complete cranioplasty failure at 12 months of follow-up (p = 0.002) and none needed revision (p = 0.053). There were 2 deaths unrelated to the cranioplasty, one in each arm of the trial. Among the 31 patients who had an autologous cranioplasty, 7 patients (22%) had complete resorption of the autologous bone such that it was deemed a complete failure. Partial or complete autologous bone resorption appeared to be more common among young patients than older patients (32 vs 45 years old, p = 0.013). The total cumulative cost between the 2 groups was not significantly different (mean difference A$3281, 95% CI $−9869 to $3308; p = 0.327).

CONCLUSIONS

Primary titanium cranioplasty should be seriously considered for young patients who require reconstruction of the skull vault following decompressive craniectomy.

Clinical trial registration no.: ACTRN12612000353897 (anzctr.org.au)