Object. Traditionally, access to the posterior fossa involved a suboccipital craniectomy. More recently, posterior fossa craniotomies have been described, although the long-term benefits of this procedure are not clear. The authors compared the postoperative complications of craniectomies and craniotomies in children with posterior fossa tumors.
Methods. From a total of 110 children undergoing surgery for posterior fossa tumors, 56 underwent craniectomy and 54 had a craniotomy. The mean duration of the hospital stay was longer in the craniectomy group (17.5 compared with 14 days). At operation, similar numbers of patients in both groups had total macroscopic clearance of the tumor, complete dural closure, and duraplasty.
Postoperatively, more patients in the craniectomy group were noted to have cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage (27 compared with 4%; p < 0.01) and pseudomeningoceles (23 compared with 9%; p < 0.05). There was no significant difference between the two groups in the numbers of patients with CSF infections, wound infections, or hydrocephalus requiring permanent CSF drainage. Patients with CSF leaks had a longer duration of hospital stay (20.7 compared with 14.9 days; p < 0.01), and were more likely to have CSF infections (35 compared with 12%; p < 0.01) and wound infections (24 compared with 1%; p < 0.01) than patients without CSF leaks. Postoperatively, wound exploration and reclosures for CSF leakage were more likely in the craniectomy group (11 compared with 0%; p < 0.01). Multivariate analysis revealed that the only predictor of CSF leakage postoperatively was the type of surgery (that is, craniotomy compared with craniectomy; odds ratio 10.8; p = 0.03).
Conclusions. Craniectomy was associated with postoperative CSF leaks, pseudomeningocele, increased wound reclosures, and thus prolonged hospital stays. In turn, CSF leakage was associated with infections of the CSF and wound. The authors propose mechanisms that may explain why CSF leakage is less likely if the bone flap is replaced.