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Alisa D. Gean, John Pile-Spellman and Roberto C. Heros

✓ The advent of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging has marked a new era in neuroimaging — particularly in terms of diminishing the need for more invasive diagnostic procedures. A cautionary note should be sounded, however, about an important limitation of standard spin-echo MR studies. Two patients were referred for angiography because MR imaging indicated the presence of a “paraclinoid aneurysm.” In retrospect, these findings were due instead to a pneumatized anterior clinoid. Angiography could have been avoided had this pitfall been recognized, and had a gradient-echo flow-imaging protocol been utilized. This latter approach (which does not replace spin-echo imaging) is more sensitive to flowing blood and thus allows differentiation of an air space from a nonthrombosed aneurysm.

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Jason S. Cheng, R. Mark Richardson, Alisa D. Gean and Shirley I. Stiver

The authors report the case of a patient who presented with a hoarse voice and left hemiparesis following a gunshot injury with trajectory entering the left scapula, traversing the suboccipital bone, and coming to rest in the right lateral medullary cistern. Following recovery from the hemiparesis, abrupt quadriparesis occurred coincident with fall of the bullet into the anterior spinal canal. The bullet was retrieved following a C-2 and C-3 laminectomy, and postoperative MR imaging confirmed signal change in the cord at the level where the bullet had lodged. The patient then made a good neurological recovery. Bullets can fall from the posterior fossa with sufficient momentum to cause an acute spinal cord injury. Consideration for craniotomy and bullet retrieval should be given to large bullets lying in the CSF spaces of the posterior fossa as they pose risk for acute spinal cord injury.

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Archie Defillo

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Shirley I. Stiver, Alisa D. Gean and Geoffrey T. Manley

Brainstem hemorrhage can occur as a primary or secondary event in traumatic brain injury (TBI). Secondary brainstem hemorrhage that evolves from raised intracranial pressure and transtentorial herniation is referred to as Duret hemorrhage. Duret hemorrhage following TBI has been considered an irreversible and terminal event. The authors report on the case of a young adult patient with TBI who presented with a low Glasgow Coma Scale score and advanced signs of cerebral herniation. She underwent an urgent decompressive hemicraniectomy for evacuation of an acute epidural hematoma and developed a Duret hemorrhage postoperatively. In accordance with the family's wishes, aggressive TBI monitoring and treatment in the intensive care unit was continued even though the anticipated outcome was poor. After a lengthy hospital course, the patient improved dramatically and was discharged ambulatory, with good cognitive functioning and a Glasgow Outcome Scale score of 4. Duret hemorrhage secondary to raised intracranial pressure is not always a terminal event, and by itself should not trigger a decision to withdraw care. Aggressive intracranial monitoring and treatment of a Duret hemorrhage arising secondary to cerebral herniation may enable a good recovery in selected patients after severe TBI.

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Alexander C. Flint, Alisa D. Gean, Geoffrey T. Manley, Vivek A. Rao, William F. Sheridan and Cornelia S. von Koch

An acute subdural hematoma (SDH) requiring surgical intervention is treated with craniotomy or craniectomy, in part because it is generally accepted that coagulated blood present in the acute phase cannot be adequately evacuated by less-invasive means such as bur hole drainage. However, a hyperacute SDH in the first few hours after trauma can have mixed-density components on CT scans that are thought to represent subdural blood that is not yet fully coagulated.

The authors report a case in which a hyperacute SDH in a patient receiving antiplatelet therapy was treated with the novel technique of temporizing subdural evacuation port system (SEPS) placement. Placement of an SEPS in the intensive care unit allowed for rapid surgical treatment of the patient's elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) by drainage of 70 ml of fresh subdural blood. After initial SEPS-induced stabilization, the patient underwent operative treatment of the SDH by craniotomy. The combined approach of emergency SEPS placement followed by craniotomy resulted in a dramatic recovery, with improvement from coma and extensor posturing to a normal status on neurological evaluation 5 weeks later. In appropriately selected cases, patients with a hyperacute SDH may benefit from SEPS placement to quickly treat elevated ICP, as a bridge to definitive surgical treatment by craniotomy.