Traumatic brain injury in pediatric patients: evidence for the effectiveness of decompressive surgery

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the current leading cause of death in children over 1 year of age. Adequate management and care of pediatric patients is critical to ensure the best functional outcome in this population. In their controversial trial, Cooper et al. concluded that decompressive craniectomy following TBI did not improve clinical outcome of the analyzed adult population. While the study did not target pediatric populations, the results do raise important and timely clinical questions regarding the effectiveness of decompressive surgery in pediatric patients. There is still a paucity of evidence regarding the effectiveness of this therapy in a pediatric population, and there is an especially noticeable knowledge gap surrounding age-stratified interventions in pediatric trauma. The purposes of this review are to first explore the anatomical variations between pediatric and adult populations in the setting of TBI. Second, the authors assess how these differences between adult and pediatric populations could translate into differences in the impact of decompressive surgery following TBI.

Abbreviations used in this paper: CPP = cerebral perfusion pressure; DECRA = DEcompressive CRAniectomy; GCS = Glasgow Coma Scale; ICP = intracranial pressure; RCT = randomized controlled trial; RESCUEicp = Randomised Evaluation of Surgery with Craniectomy for Uncontrollable Elevation of Intra-Cranial Pressure; TBI = traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the current leading cause of death in children over 1 year of age. Adequate management and care of pediatric patients is critical to ensure the best functional outcome in this population. In their controversial trial, Cooper et al. concluded that decompressive craniectomy following TBI did not improve clinical outcome of the analyzed adult population. While the study did not target pediatric populations, the results do raise important and timely clinical questions regarding the effectiveness of decompressive surgery in pediatric patients. There is still a paucity of evidence regarding the effectiveness of this therapy in a pediatric population, and there is an especially noticeable knowledge gap surrounding age-stratified interventions in pediatric trauma. The purposes of this review are to first explore the anatomical variations between pediatric and adult populations in the setting of TBI. Second, the authors assess how these differences between adult and pediatric populations could translate into differences in the impact of decompressive surgery following TBI.

An estimated 1 in 10 (5.3 million) of the 54 million Americans living with disabilities have a disability caused by TBI (www.hhs.gov).49Approximately 475,000 TBIs occur among children ages 0–14 years old every year in the US (www.cdc.gov), and the current leading cause of death in children more than 1 year old is TBI. Different pediatric age groups experience different causes for their injury. In infants, the most common causes are falls and physical assaults. In toddlers and young children, car accidents and falls are most common. In children and teenagers, car accidents and sports are the most common causes.30

Proper management and care of pediatric patients is therefore crucial to improve functional outcome in this population. Recent advances have been made in the more general field of adult TBI, including the conclusion of a controversial trial that analyzed the clinical effectiveness of decompressive craniectomy following TBI in improving outcome in adults.16 The study did not explicitly target pediatric populations; however, the results of the study do raise important and timely clinical questions regarding the effectiveness of decompressive surgery in pediatric patients. There is still a paucity of evidence regarding the effectiveness of this therapy in this population, and there is an especially noticeable knowledge gap surrounding age-stratified interventions in pediatric trauma.

We have several goals in this review. First, we explore the anatomical variations between pediatric and adult populations in the setting of TBI. Second, we note the epidemiological and physiological differences within age-stratified pediatric populations. Third, we assess how these differences between adult and pediatric populations could translate into differences in the impact of decompressive surgery following TBI by analyzing current knowledge on the utilization of craniectomy as a treatment in these different populations.

Physiology

Pediatric populations represent an important but often under-defined population in the literature investigating TBI. Many adult trials of decompressive craniectomy following TBI include patients as young as 10 or 15 years old in their protocols,16,26 demonstrating a failure to distinguish between adult and pediatric populations. However, significant physiological, anatomical, and pathological differences exist between the ages of birth and adulthood, resulting in the need for clear definitions in patient populations. For the purposes of this review, the pediatric population includes children from the moment of birth until 18 years of age.

Damage following TBI is the result of primary and secondary injuries on the brain. Primary injury is largely due to shearing forces between brain tissue of different densities, specifically between skull and dura mater, dura mater and gray matter, and white matter and gray matter.22 Secondary physiological injury, however, is also responsible for a large amount of morbidity and death. Secondary injury can result from impaired cerebral blood flow, regional edema, hemorrhage, elevated ICP and therefore reduced CPP, dysfunction of ion pumps, excessive release of neurotransmitters, cascade of cellular destruction via reactive oxygen species, proteolysis, and inflammation.19 These processes can often lead to ischemia, infarct, and necrosis.

Intracranial pressure is one of the most important brain physiological variables, especially following TBI.21,25,30,42 Control of ICP is therefore crucial in preventing secondary injury. Healthy adults normally maintain ICP values below 20–25 mm Hg, although this exact threshold is not clear in any age group.10

Anatomy

There are multiple anatomical mechanisms for injury to the brain. In both pediatric and adult populations, the brain is cushioned by a surrounding layer of CSF and infused by layers of vessels that provide structural and nutritional support. The brain is protected further by layers of pia, arachnoid, and dura mater, surrounded by a bony skull. In young children, the skull has not yet calcified completely and is less capable of distributing pressure. By adulthood, the skull has hardened into a sandwich of cortical bone around a spongy diploë and can resist impact fracture at 11 times the force strength of neonates.38

Anatomical and mechanical variations between adults and children explain some of the differences between the 2 age groups for severity of and response to TBI. Children have smaller brains than adults, and researchers have demonstrated in chimpanzee models that upon subjection to whiplash, smaller brains are less vulnerable than larger brains to the same amount of angular acceleration inducing injury.39

Relative to their body and compared with adults, however, children have large and heavy heads with weaker cervical neck muscles, which allows for a more forceful impact and a more severe injury. In young children, the skull is more pliable and incapable of withstanding bending loads. Cranial sutures are not yet fused, and upon impact, the soft skull deforms into the brain. More severe trauma is associated with plastic deformation and cracking of the skull.38

Differences in TBI Within the Pediatric Population

Many elements influence outcome following TBI, including patient age, impact severity, physiological variables, anatomical variations, and especially control of ICP. Although not definitively proven, children are believed to have stratified values of normal ICP based on their age. Infants maintain ICP of 2–4 mm Hg, while older children typically maintain their normal ICP range between 5 and 15 mm Hg.2 These values of ICP correlate with CPP guidelines implemented in 1997, whereby adequate CPP per age group is defined as ≥ 30 (neonate), ≥ 40 (1 month to 1 year), ≥ 50 (1–4 years), ≥ 60 (5–8 years), and ≥ 70 mm Hg (> 8 years)11,48 (Table 1). However, a more recent clinical trial has noted lower values for critical minimum CPP, with values of 48, 54, and 64 mm Hg for children ages 2–6, 7–10, and 11–15, respectively (Table 1).13

TABLE 1:

Comparison of 2 different clinical measures of minimum adequate CPP

Authors & YearAgeAdequate CPP (mm Hg)
Bullock et al., 1996neonate≥30
1 month–1 yr≥40
1–4 yrs≥50
5–8 yrs≥60
>8 yrs≥70
Chambers et al., 20062–6 yrs>48
7–10 yrs>54
11–15 yrs>60

The thresholds for ICP hypertension in children requiring treatment are generally considered to be lower than in adults, with the threshold in infants approximately 15 mm Hg and in young children between 15 and 20 mm Hg.2 Several clinical studies support these age-stratified values in pediatrics, noting that neurological outcome is improved when medical treatments targeted at maintaining ICP below 20 mm Hg are used.20,46

Recent studies, both clinical and basic science, show variation in clinical outcome following TBI between children and adults (Table 2). Worse outcomes might be predicted in pediatrics because children have a higher incidence of edema following TBI and a reduced antioxidative capacity compared with adults.6,38 Also, children experience a higher incidence of hypotensive episodes following TBI, which decreases CPP.8 Finally, the young brain normally receives a higher percentage of cardiac output compared with the adult brain, and children are therefore at higher risk for ischemia following TBI due to their dependence on a higher perfusion rate.45,52 Recent evidence has shown that older teens generally demonstrate better outcomes than younger children, perhaps due to greater vulnerability among younger children to more severe physical injury.3,4,28,32 Despite these factors, however, children overall tend to have better clinical outcomes following TBI than adults.3,4,28

TABLE 2:

Comparison of prognostic factors following TBI between children and adults

PrognosticatorChildrenAdults
edemahigher incidencelower incidence
antioxidative capacitylessergreater
hypotensive episodeshigher incidencelesser incidence
% of cardiac outputhigherlesser
age stratificationyounger children more vulnerable to severe injuryyounger adults more favorable outcome
basement membrane glycoproteinslower levels of chondroitin sulfatehigher levels of chondroitin sulfate
physiological variables examined in animalsbiomechanics, cell death, metabolism, electrophysiology, glutamatergic neurotransmissionbiomechanics, cell death, metabolism, electrophysiology, glutamatergic neurotransmission

To investigate the reasons for such differences in outcomes, many animal models have been used to compare young versus old age and TBI. Studies have examined the role of biomechanics,35 metabolism,43 cell death,9,25 electrophysiology,17,44 and glutamatergic neurotransmission23,24 as possible mechanisms to explain the improved clinical outcome in pediatric compared with adult patients. An additional mechanism by which immature brain tissue may recover better following TBI is due to the presence of low levels of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan glycoproteins compared with adult tissue. This important matrix component provides rigidity and support to the brain parenchyma, and lower levels of the glycoprotein are associated with increased plasticity. This lower level may be 1 mechanism by which the developing brain can maintain plasticity and rapidly remodel following injury.5,41,51

Surgical Interventions for TBI in the Pediatric Population

Because ICP following TBI is widely regarded as an important physiological determinant of brain function and clinical outcome,21,25,30,42 many approaches have been developed to control ICP. However, despite the existence of guidelines for management following TBI, there is a lack of data surrounding specific interventions, especially in pediatric populations. Most guidelines focus on ICP control as a means to maintain adequate CPP.34 Current medical treatments to reduce ICP include hyperosmolar therapy (such as mannitol or hypertonic saline),53 hyperventilation,15,47 sedation and paralytics, and head of bed elevation. In addition, barbiturate-induced coma2 and hypothermia7 have been shown to reduce cerebral metabolic rate and oxygen demands, offering a protective role.2 If medical treatment is ineffective in normalizing ICP, several types of surgical intervention are possible. Surgical methods used include hematoma evacuation, ventricular drains, and craniectomy. Hematoma evacuation is indicated in the setting of a hemorrhagic mass lesion, while a ventricular drain is used in the setting of hydrocephalus or when CSF drainage is desired. The third method, craniectomy, is the subject of many current clinical trials. The overall goal is to increase the total volume of the cranial cavity by removing a large portion of the skull, thereby lowering ICP and reducing the incidence of secondary injury to the brain.

Several approaches to decompressive craniectomy exist. In both children and adults, a bilateral frontotemporoparietal craniectomy is often used for diffuse bilateral swelling, while a unilateral frontotemporoparietal craniectomy is chosen for unilateral brain swelling.21,25,30 A variety of specialized techniques have also been reported in children, including smaller, 4-cm bitemporal craniectomies,48 larger craniectomies,25,28 and craniectomy combined with expansion duraplasty.14,18,42 To date no study has compared the efficacy of the various techniques in improving outcome. Furthermore, the timing of decompressive craniectomy and its effect on clinical outcome have not been clearly established in pediatric patients.

Current opinion on the effectiveness of craniectomy in improving clinical outcome in pediatric patients following TBI is divided. Reduction of refractory ICP has been shown to be a major predictor of mortality following TBI,21,25,31,42 and many studies have confirmed the positive effects of craniectomy on reducing ICP following TBI.1,37,49,50 However, few randomized controlled studies exist that specifically address the effectiveness of craniectomy in pediatric populations to improve clinical outcome. In most current adult and pediatric studies, refractory ICP hypertension is often defined as ICP > 20 mm Hg for some defined time period.14,20,40 However, no standard definition of ICP hypertension exists in pediatric patients, which poses difficult challenges for designing and comparing clinical trials and results.

Clinical Trials of TBI

Traumatic brain injury trials are inherently challenging. Guidelines recommend prespecified baseline prognostic criteria, broad inclusion criteria, and ordinal statistical analysis to maximize efficiency and generalizability of the results.33 Additionally, because functional outcome following TBI can change greatly from 1 to 5 years postincident, long follow-up periods greater than 1 year are needed.12 The 5 trials summarized in Table 3 are the most significant and recent in the field of craniectomy following pediatric and adult TBI. Of these studies, only the Taylor et al.48 and Kan et al.27 trials are dedicated pediatric studies. The remaining 3 studies analyze primarily adult populations with overlap into the pediatric age range. All 5 studies were of small sample size, with numbers of patients ranging from 27 to 309. Additionally, 2 of the 5 studies, conducted by Polin et al.42 and Kan et al.,27 were retrospective studies.

TABLE 3:

Comparison of 5 clinical studies of decompressive surgery following pediatric mild TBI*

Study CharacteristicsTaylor et al., 2001Polin et al., 1997Kan et al., 2006Cooper et al., 2011Hutchinson et al., TBD
no. of patients277051155309 (to date)
age range ormedian10.7 yrs18.7 yrs6.6 yrs23.7 yrs (surgery)/24.6 yrs (SOC)15–59 yrs10–65 yrs
methodsRCT; ICP ≤20 mm Hg; surgery <6 hrs postrandomization; 4-cm bitemporal craniotomy via bilateral vertical incision in midtemporal regionretrospective study; bifrontal craniectomy to relieve refractory ICP; surgical patients matched w/SOC controlretrospective study; decompressive craniectomy performed in children between 1996 and 2005RCT; ICP maintained ≤20 mm Hg; Marshall criteria; injury severity score; trauma score; treatment <72 hrs postictusRCT; ICP ≤25 mm Hg
descriptionclinical effectiveness of very early craniectomy in children w/TBIretrospectively compared craniectomy following TBI to appropriately matched controlsanalyzed postop mortality andmorbidity following TBI in childrenclinical effectiveness of craniectomy following brief refractory ICP HTN after TBIclinical effectiveness of craniectomy following brief refractory ICP HTN after TBI
inclusion criteria>12 mos old w/head injury; refractory ICP HTN (>20 mm Hg/30 min, >25 mm Hg/10 min, >30 mm Hg/1 min); evidence of herniationhead injury; refractory ICP HTN(despite mild hyperventilation, elevation of bed, mannitol, or barbiturate); max ICP >20 mm Hgsevere head trauma; elevated ICPhead injury; abnormal CT scan requiring ICP monitoring; ICP >20 mm Hg >15 min despite first-line treatmentshead injury; abnormal CT scan requiring ICP monitoring; refractory ICP (>25 mm Hg for 1–12 hrs)
exclusion criterianoneGCS score >7nonecerebral mass lesion; successful control of ICP w/first therapiesbilat fixed and dilated pupils; bleeding diathesis; devastating injury not expected to survive >24 hrs
major findingspositive outcomes in craniectomy group; decreased ICP in surgical group vs SOCsurgery group had better functional outcome vs SOC; decreased ICP in surgical vs SOC; in most favorable pediatric population, large advantage of craniectomyhigh rate of mortality in children undergoing decompressive surgery for raised ICP; hydrocephalus and epilepsy common complications of surgery following TBIbetter outcome following second-line medical therapy after brief, modest elevation in ICP unresponsive to first-line medical therapyTBD
limitationssmall trial size; no age stratification; long study over 7 yrs, functional outcome only studied at 6 mosnarrow inclusion criteria; low population sample; retrospective protocol; “favorable population” defined narrowly: surgery within 48 hrs, no ICP >40 mm Hg; age of the populationsmall study population; retrospective protocol; only 6 patients underwent craniectomy for raised ICP onlylarge screened population w/narrow inclusion population; baseline patient differences (pupil dilation); inappropriate low threshold for ICP; large crossover rate (23%); interquartile ICP 18–22 mm Hg, questionable if meaningful HTNTBD

* HTN = hypertension; SOC = standard of care; TBD = to be determined.

Taylor et al., 2001

Completed in 2001, the Taylor et al.48 RCT investigated the clinical effectiveness of very early application of craniectomy in children with TBI. Using functional outcome at 6 months after intervention as the primary outcome and the control of ICP as a secondary outcome, the authors demonstrated positive outcomes in craniectomy patients compared with noncraniectomy patients, as well as a large decrease in ICP.

The inclusion criteria for study participants were refractory intracranial hypertension, defined as sustained ICP during the 1st day after admission (> 20 mm Hg for 30 minutes, > 25 mm Hg for 10 minutes, or > 30 mm Hg for 1 minute), or clinical evidence of herniation, represented by pupil dilation. Of the control group patients, 1 patient had fixed pupils preoperatively, and in the surgery group, 3 patients had fixed pupils preoperatively. Surgery was performed within 6 hours of randomization, with each patient in the surgery group receiving a 4-cm bitemporal craniotomy via a bilateral vertical incision in the midtemporal region. As noted in the Adelson guidelines, this surgical operation is smaller than historical craniectomies for relief of ICP.25,29 Cranioplasty was performed several months later if indicated.

The study demonstrated positive results for the implementation of early craniectomy in children with TBI. Seven of 13 surgery patients obtained a favorable outcome at 6 months, while only 2 of 14 medical patients obtained a favorable outcome (p = 0.046). However, due to the nature of the repeated significance testing performed during the test, a p value < 0.021 was required for statistical significance for this test, per the explanation of the authors. Additionally, surgery patients demonstrated an ICP decrease of 8.98 mm Hg during the 48-hour period following intervention (95% CI 4.987–12.968), while medical patients demonstrated a decrease of 3.39 mm Hg over the same 48-hour period (95% CI −0.435 to 7.807). Finally, surgery patients demonstrated fewer ICP spikes (> 20 mm Hg) than medical patients (107 vs 223, respectively).

In comparison with the recent adult craniectomy trials described below, the Taylor et al. 2001 pediatric trial has important findings and implications. The authors hypothesized that the implementation of an early craniectomy in refractory ICP hypertensive patients would result in better patient outcomes than the historical standard of care, which reserved surgery as a final intervention in refractory ICP hypertension following TBI.21,42 Based on their preliminary findings, the use of early craniectomy may result in better functional outcomes at 6 months in pediatric patients. However, this trial is limited by several factors. First, there was a small trial size of only 27 patients, and future studies would need to greatly expand the patient number. Second, there are numerous anatomical, mechanical, and physiological differences between the infant brain and the adolescent brain, as explained earlier, and future trials will need to address these issues through age stratification. Third, the study was long, lasting over 7 years, and functional outcome evaluation was only performed early in the recovery period, at 6 months. Another study has noted that long-term recovery following TBI can change greatly from 1 to 5 years postincident.12

Kan et al., 2006

A small patient study, the Kan et al.27 analysis of clinical effectiveness of craniectomy following severe TBI in children was completed in 2006. The study was a retrospective analysis of 51 children's records following craniectomy to either relieve ICP (6 children) or to relieve ICP and evacuate a hematoma (45 children). The authors found that craniectomy for the purpose of relieving ICP alone was associated with high levels of morbidity and mortality; however, strong conclusions cannot be drawn as only 6 patients were included in this specific cohort.

Few additional studies exist that specifically investigate the role of craniectomy in pediatric populations following TBI. The Taylor et al. study is the largest study to date, but has a small sample size of 27 patients. In a smaller study, Cho and colleagues14 reported significant decreases in ICP in 10 children < 2 years old (from a mean of 59 mm Hg preoperatively to a mean of 12 mm Hg postoperatively).

Polin et al., 1997

Rather than performing a prospective RCT, Polin et al.42 selected 35 patients who had undergone a bifrontal craniectomy for the purpose of relieving refractory ICP following TBI. Refractory ICP was defined in this study as patients who possessed elevated ICP despite mild hyperventilation, elevation of the head of the bed, mannitol administration, or barbiturate administration. The average patient age was 18.7 years old, all but 2 patients had a maximum ICP > 20 mm Hg, and no patient had a GCS score > 7 at the time of surgery. All surgical patients were matched with appropriately selected controls who had similar characteristics but did not undergo craniectomy. The average reduction in ICP in the surgery group was from 34.9 to 21.6 mm Hg and the average reduction in ICP in the control group was from 33.2 to 29.4 mm Hg (p = 0.026), indicating an advantage in the surgical group.

Most importantly, patients undergoing craniectomies demonstrated greater functional outcomes than control patients: 37% of craniectomy patients had a favorable outcome, compared with 16% of control patients (p = 0.014). When restricted to pediatric populations (< 18 years old), the difference was 44% versus 22%, respectively, although not statistically significant (p = 0.079). Finally, when the patient population was restricted to the most favorable target for craniectomy, defined as surgery performed within 48 hours of injury and no sustained ICP > 40 mm Hg, pediatric populations receiving craniectomies had an 80% favorable outcome but the control group demonstrated a 24% favorable outcome (p = 0.002).

Due to the trial's narrow inclusion criteria, low population sample, and retrospective analysis protocol, conclusions are limited. A significant implication, however, is that when the pediatric patient population is appropriately screened for therapeutic benefit as per the definitions of Polin et al., the use of craniectomy appears to improve functional outcome over the standard practice of medical care.

Cooper et al., 2011

The authors of the DECRA trial recently published controversial trial results16 implicating worse outcome following craniectomy in patients with a brief, modest elevation in ICP following TBI (Table 3).

While it does not target pediatric craniectomy patients, and no pediatric data were reported, this study does raise important, controversial questions for the field. Additionally, the age range of participants in the study overlaps with pediatrics, including people from 15 to 59 years old. The randomized, nonblinded study suggests that patients with brief, modest elevations in ICP unresponsive to first-line medical therapy who subsequently received second-line medical therapy (and life-saving surgery at the discretion of the surgeon) have better outcomes than those patients who undergo immediate decompression. Completed between December 2002 and April 2010, the trial enrolled 155 participants. The principal comparison was between the effectiveness of decompressive craniectomy and medical standard of care following TBI; endpoints examined were functional outcome at 6 months (primary outcome) and the ICP hypertension index (secondary outcome). The only surgical option considered was a bifrontal temporoparietal craniectomy with bilateral dural opening and without falx cerebri division. Based on the study's definition of inclusion criteria, ICP threshold, patient population characteristics, and intent to treat analysis, a larger unfavorable outcome was associated with surgery over medical therapy in their cohort, which included mostly adult patients. However, the trial did demonstrate reduced hourly ICP and reduced the ICP hypertension index among the surgery patients.

The trial suffers from several limitations, both specifically and for the purposes of this review. The study included confounding variables including baseline patient differences, questionably low threshold for ICP hypertension, and a large crossover rate. The majority of patient characteristics were similar at baseline, with the large exception that the craniectomy group included a higher percentage of participants with nonresponsive pupils than the standard of care group (27% vs 12%, respectively), which is an indicator of more severe prognosis.36 The authors designated 20 mm Hg as their threshold for intracranial hypertension. While this value is generally accepted in pediatric studies, it has not received a Level I recommendation for the threshold for instituting therapy in adult populations.10

For the purpose of this review, the trial is timely and controversial; however, the results must be cautiously interpreted within the pediatric field as no specific conclusions were implemented regarding children. It is difficult to apply the results of the DECRA study to pediatric or any group of patients, due to the variety of confounding variables present in the study.

Hutchinson et al

A trial in the United Kingdom (RESCUEicp) is currently underway with similar study aims as the DECRA trial but with important differences, such as including participants as young as 10 years old (Table 3). Comparable to the DECRA protocol, the RESCUEicp trial makes provisions for physicians to deliver care in the best interest of the patient, including craniectomy for the medicine group or barbiturates for the surgery group if the situation becomes an emergency (for example, prolonged ICP > 40 mm Hg with compromised CPP). Both studies use multiple-observer readings of CT scans following injury to stage the severity of the injury at baseline, a key component to an efficient trial.33 The RESCUEicp study has the potential to generate a more powerful analysis of the outcome from craniectomy in both pediatric and adult patients and may be instrumental in directing future standard of care guidelines.

Discussion

Clinical outcomes following craniectomy after TBI in children are controversial. Taylor et al.48 reported clear favorable outcomes in 7 of 13 patients receiving craniectomy and in only 2 of 14 patients receiving full medical management. Polin et al.42 compared the rate of favorable outcomes in their pediatric and adult populations and report 44% and 29% favorable, respectively. However, this study had no control group. In a mixed-age prospective study, Guerra et al.25 used highly restrictive patient selection criteria to analyze the effects of craniectomy on clinical outcome, and the results failed to support young age as a predictor of improved outcome.

Current guidelines are sparse and based on little clinical evidence. Adelson et al.2 recommend the following criteria for selecting favorable patients for craniectomy in children: 1) diffuse cerebral swelling on cranial CT imaging; 2) within 48 hours of injury; 3) no episodes of sustained ICP > 40 mm Hg before surgery; 4) GCS score > 3 at some point subsequent to injury; 5) secondary clinical deterioration; and 6) evolving cerebral herniation syndrome.

At the moment, thorough investigations examining the clinical effectiveness of craniectomy in pediatric patients suffering from TBI are lacking. An important consideration, which arises from these discussions, is the appropriate selection of patients for craniectomy. The 2003 guidelines for surgical treatment of pediatric intracranial hypertension state “patients who experience a secondary deterioration on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) and/or evolving cerebral herniation syndrome within the first 48 hours after injury may represent a favorable group. Patients with an unimproved GCS of 3 may represent an unfavorable group.”

Previous findings42,48 support a functionally higher outcome in pediatric patients compared with adult patients, especially when recipient patients are appropriately screened for maximum ICP < 40 mm Hg and surgery is implemented within 48 hours. Additionally, the ongoing RESCUEicp study is very similar to the DECRA study but includes patients as young as 10 years old, which may illuminate the effectiveness of the procedure in pediatric populations in the near future. Based on the current paucity of data within the pediatric field, it would be beneficial for the authors to perform subgroup analysis within their pediatric cohort. Additionally, specific goals for future trials might include the following: large pediatric patient database, stratified by age; similar baseline characteristics; minimization of crossover; accordance with guidelines in selecting threshold for refractory ICP hypertension; appropriate selection of long-term (> 5 years) measures of clinical outcome; and specific, nonexcepted exclusion criteria including established characteristics for worse outcome.

Conclusions

To date, decompressive surgery following TBI remains controversial. Current questions that remain include the following. Which patients are appropriate for selection for craniectomy following TBI? Is young age a predictor of improved outcome? How can we optimize the surgical approach to refractory ICP hypertension in pediatric patients? How can we better understand the various physiological measurements (ICP, CPP, cerebral blood flow, and others) to tailor the surgical therapy to the patient? What role, if any, does the age of the patient play in targeting their therapeutic ICP level? Future RCTs are needed to address these and other questions, with special importance being placed on age stratification in pediatric patient populations.

Disclosure

The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

Author contributions to the study and manuscript preparation include the following. Conception and design: Appelboom, Zoller, Szpalski, Anderson. Acquisition of data: McDowell. Drafting the article: Appelboom, Zoller, Feldstein. Critically revising the article: Zoller, Piazza, Szpalski, Zacharia, Hickman. Reviewed submitted version of manuscript: Zoller. Administrative/technical/material support: Bruce, D'Ambrosio. Study supervision: Appelboom, Vaughan, D'Ambrosio, Feldstein, Anderson.

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    • Export Citation
  • 22

    Gentry LRGodersky JCThompson B: MR imaging of head trauma: review of the distribution and radiopathologic features of traumatic lesions. AJR Am J Roentgenol 150:6636721988

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23

    Giza CCMaria NSHovda DA: N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit changes after traumatic injury to the developing brain. J Neurotrauma 23:9509612006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24

    Giza CCPrins ML: Is being plastic fantastic? Mechanisms of altered plasticity after developmental traumatic brain injury. Dev Neurosci 28:3643792006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 25

    Guerra WKPiek JGaab MR: Decompressive craniectomy to treat intracranial hypertension in head injury patients. Intensive Care Med 25:132713291999

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 26

    Hutchinson PJCorteen ECzosnyka MMendelow ADMenon DKMitchell P: Decompressive craniectomy in traumatic brain injury: the randomized multicenter RESCUEicp study (www.RESCUEicp.com). Acta Neurochir Suppl 96:17202006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 27

    Kan PAmini AHansen KWhite GL JrBrockmeyer DLWalker ML: Outcomes after decompressive craniectomy for severe traumatic brain injury in children. J Neurosurg 105:5 Suppl3373422006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28

    Keenan HTBratton SL: Epidemiology and outcomes of pediatric traumatic brain injury. Dev Neurosci 28:2562632006

  • 29

    Kerr FW: Radical decompression and dural grafting in severe cerebral edema. Mayo Clin Proc 43:8528641968

  • 30

    Kraus JFRock AHemyari P: Brain injuries among infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. Am J Dis Child 144:6846911990

  • 31

    Kunze EMeixensberger JJanka MSörensen NRoosen K: Decompressive craniectomy in patients with uncontrollable intracranial hypertension. Acta Neurochir Suppl 71:16181998

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 32

    Levin HSAldrich EFSaydjari CEisenberg HMFoulkes MABellefleur M: Severe head injury in children: experience of the Traumatic Coma Data Bank. Neurosurgery 31:4354441992

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 33

    Maas AISteyerberg EWMarmarou AMcHugh GSLingsma HFButcher I: IMPACT recommendations for improving the design and analysis of clinical trials in moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. Neurotherapeutics 7:1271342010

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 34

    Madikians AGiza CC: Treatment of traumatic brain injury in pediatrics. Curr Treat Options Neurol 11:3934042009

  • 35

    Margulies SSThibault KL: Infant skull and suture properties: measurements and implications for mechanisms of pediatric brain injury. J Biomech Eng 122:3643712000

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 36

    Marmarou ALu JButcher IMcHugh GSMurray GDSteyerberg EW: Prognostic value of the Glasgow Coma Scale and pupil reactivity in traumatic brain injury assessed pre-hospital and on enrollment: an IMPACT analysis. J Neurotrauma 24:2702802007

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 37

    Olivecrona MRodling-Wahlström MNaredi SKoskinen LO: Effective ICP reduction by decompressive craniectomy in patients with severe traumatic brain injury treated by an ICP-targeted therapy. J Neurotrauma 24:9279352007

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 38

    Ommaya AKGoldsmith WThibault L: Biomechanics and neuropathology of adult and paediatric head injury. Br J Neurosurg 16:2202422002

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 39

    Ommaya AKHirsch AE: Tolerances for cerebral concussion from head impact and whiplash in primates. J Biomech 4:13211971

  • 40

    Pfenninger JKaiser GLütschg JSutter M: Treatment and outcome of the severely head injured child. Intensive Care Med 9:13161983

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 41

    Pizzorusso TMedini PBerardi NChierzi SFawcett JWMaffei L: Reactivation of ocular dominance plasticity in the adult visual cortex. Science 298:124812512002

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 42

    Polin RSShaffrey MEBogaev CATisdale NGermanson TBocchicchio B: Decompressive bifrontal craniectomy in the treatment of severe refractory posttraumatic cerebral edema. Neurosurgery 41:84941997

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 43

    Prins MLHovda DA: Mapping cerebral glucose metabolism during spatial learning: interactions of development and traumatic brain injury. J Neurotrauma 18:31462001

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 44

    Reeves TMLyeth BGPovlishock JT: Long-term potentiation deficits and excitability changes following traumatic brain injury. Exp Brain Res 106:2482561995

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 45

    Settergren GLindblad BSPersson B: Cerebral blood flow and exchange of oxygen, glucose ketone bodies, lactate, pyruvate and amino acids in anesthetized children. Acta Paediatr Scand 69:4574651980

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 46

    Sharples PMStuart AGMatthews DSAynsley-Green AEyre JA: Cerebral blood flow and metabolism in children with severe head injury. Part 1: Relation to age, Glasgow coma score, outcome, intracranial pressure, and time after injury. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 58:1451521995

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 47

    Stringer WAHasso ANThompson JRHinshaw DBJordan KG: Hyperventilation-induced cerebral ischemia in patients with acute brain lesions: demonstration by xenon-enhanced CT. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 14:4754841993

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 48

    Taylor AButt WRosenfeld JShann FDitchfield MLewis E: A randomized trial of very early decompressive craniectomy in children with traumatic brain injury and sustained intracranial hypertension. Childs Nerv Syst 17:1541622001

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 49

    Timofeev ICzosnyka MNortje JSmielewski PKirkpatrick PGupta A: Effect of decompressive craniectomy on intracranial pressure and cerebrospinal compensation following traumatic brain injury. J Neurosurg 108:66732008

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 50

    Timofeev IKirkpatrick PJCorteen EHiler MCzosnyka MMenon DK: Decompressive craniectomy in traumatic brain injury: outcome following protocol-driven therapy. Acta Neurochir Suppl 96:11162006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 51

    Tropea DCaleo MMaffei L: Synergistic effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and chondroitinase ABC on retinal fiber sprouting after denervation of the superior colliculus in adult rats. J Neurosci 23:703470442003

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 52

    Vavilala MSLam AM: Perioperative considerations in pediatric traumatic brain injury. Int Anesthesiol Clin 40:69872002

  • 53

    Venkatesh BGarrett PFraenkel DJPurdie D: Indices to quantify changes in intracranial and cerebral perfusion pressure by assessing agreement between hourly and semi-continuous recordings. Intensive Care Med 30:5105132004

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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Article Information

* Dr. Appelboom and Mr. Zoller contributed equally to this work.

Address correspondence to: Geoffrey Appelboom, M.D., Department of Neurological Surgery, Columbia University, 710 West 168th Street, Room 431, New York, New York 10032. email: ga2294@columbia.edu.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

Headings

References

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    Gaab MRRittierodt MLorenz MHeissler HE: Traumatic brain swelling and operative decompression: a prospective investigation. Acta Neurochir Suppl (Wien) 51:3263281990

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  • 22

    Gentry LRGodersky JCThompson B: MR imaging of head trauma: review of the distribution and radiopathologic features of traumatic lesions. AJR Am J Roentgenol 150:6636721988

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23

    Giza CCMaria NSHovda DA: N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit changes after traumatic injury to the developing brain. J Neurotrauma 23:9509612006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24

    Giza CCPrins ML: Is being plastic fantastic? Mechanisms of altered plasticity after developmental traumatic brain injury. Dev Neurosci 28:3643792006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 25

    Guerra WKPiek JGaab MR: Decompressive craniectomy to treat intracranial hypertension in head injury patients. Intensive Care Med 25:132713291999

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 26

    Hutchinson PJCorteen ECzosnyka MMendelow ADMenon DKMitchell P: Decompressive craniectomy in traumatic brain injury: the randomized multicenter RESCUEicp study (www.RESCUEicp.com). Acta Neurochir Suppl 96:17202006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 27

    Kan PAmini AHansen KWhite GL JrBrockmeyer DLWalker ML: Outcomes after decompressive craniectomy for severe traumatic brain injury in children. J Neurosurg 105:5 Suppl3373422006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28

    Keenan HTBratton SL: Epidemiology and outcomes of pediatric traumatic brain injury. Dev Neurosci 28:2562632006

  • 29

    Kerr FW: Radical decompression and dural grafting in severe cerebral edema. Mayo Clin Proc 43:8528641968

  • 30

    Kraus JFRock AHemyari P: Brain injuries among infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. Am J Dis Child 144:6846911990

  • 31

    Kunze EMeixensberger JJanka MSörensen NRoosen K: Decompressive craniectomy in patients with uncontrollable intracranial hypertension. Acta Neurochir Suppl 71:16181998

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 32

    Levin HSAldrich EFSaydjari CEisenberg HMFoulkes MABellefleur M: Severe head injury in children: experience of the Traumatic Coma Data Bank. Neurosurgery 31:4354441992

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 33

    Maas AISteyerberg EWMarmarou AMcHugh GSLingsma HFButcher I: IMPACT recommendations for improving the design and analysis of clinical trials in moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. Neurotherapeutics 7:1271342010

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 34

    Madikians AGiza CC: Treatment of traumatic brain injury in pediatrics. Curr Treat Options Neurol 11:3934042009

  • 35

    Margulies SSThibault KL: Infant skull and suture properties: measurements and implications for mechanisms of pediatric brain injury. J Biomech Eng 122:3643712000

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 36

    Marmarou ALu JButcher IMcHugh GSMurray GDSteyerberg EW: Prognostic value of the Glasgow Coma Scale and pupil reactivity in traumatic brain injury assessed pre-hospital and on enrollment: an IMPACT analysis. J Neurotrauma 24:2702802007

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 37

    Olivecrona MRodling-Wahlström MNaredi SKoskinen LO: Effective ICP reduction by decompressive craniectomy in patients with severe traumatic brain injury treated by an ICP-targeted therapy. J Neurotrauma 24:9279352007

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 38

    Ommaya AKGoldsmith WThibault L: Biomechanics and neuropathology of adult and paediatric head injury. Br J Neurosurg 16:2202422002

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 39

    Ommaya AKHirsch AE: Tolerances for cerebral concussion from head impact and whiplash in primates. J Biomech 4:13211971

  • 40

    Pfenninger JKaiser GLütschg JSutter M: Treatment and outcome of the severely head injured child. Intensive Care Med 9:13161983

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 41

    Pizzorusso TMedini PBerardi NChierzi SFawcett JWMaffei L: Reactivation of ocular dominance plasticity in the adult visual cortex. Science 298:124812512002

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 42

    Polin RSShaffrey MEBogaev CATisdale NGermanson TBocchicchio B: Decompressive bifrontal craniectomy in the treatment of severe refractory posttraumatic cerebral edema. Neurosurgery 41:84941997

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 43

    Prins MLHovda DA: Mapping cerebral glucose metabolism during spatial learning: interactions of development and traumatic brain injury. J Neurotrauma 18:31462001

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 44

    Reeves TMLyeth BGPovlishock JT: Long-term potentiation deficits and excitability changes following traumatic brain injury. Exp Brain Res 106:2482561995

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 45

    Settergren GLindblad BSPersson B: Cerebral blood flow and exchange of oxygen, glucose ketone bodies, lactate, pyruvate and amino acids in anesthetized children. Acta Paediatr Scand 69:4574651980

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 46

    Sharples PMStuart AGMatthews DSAynsley-Green AEyre JA: Cerebral blood flow and metabolism in children with severe head injury. Part 1: Relation to age, Glasgow coma score, outcome, intracranial pressure, and time after injury. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 58:1451521995

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 47

    Stringer WAHasso ANThompson JRHinshaw DBJordan KG: Hyperventilation-induced cerebral ischemia in patients with acute brain lesions: demonstration by xenon-enhanced CT. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 14:4754841993

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 48

    Taylor AButt WRosenfeld JShann FDitchfield MLewis E: A randomized trial of very early decompressive craniectomy in children with traumatic brain injury and sustained intracranial hypertension. Childs Nerv Syst 17:1541622001

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 49

    Timofeev ICzosnyka MNortje JSmielewski PKirkpatrick PGupta A: Effect of decompressive craniectomy on intracranial pressure and cerebrospinal compensation following traumatic brain injury. J Neurosurg 108:66732008

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 50

    Timofeev IKirkpatrick PJCorteen EHiler MCzosnyka MMenon DK: Decompressive craniectomy in traumatic brain injury: outcome following protocol-driven therapy. Acta Neurochir Suppl 96:11162006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 51

    Tropea DCaleo MMaffei L: Synergistic effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and chondroitinase ABC on retinal fiber sprouting after denervation of the superior colliculus in adult rats. J Neurosci 23:703470442003

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 52

    Vavilala MSLam AM: Perioperative considerations in pediatric traumatic brain injury. Int Anesthesiol Clin 40:69872002

  • 53

    Venkatesh BGarrett PFraenkel DJPurdie D: Indices to quantify changes in intracranial and cerebral perfusion pressure by assessing agreement between hourly and semi-continuous recordings. Intensive Care Med 30:5105132004

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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