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Kalil G. Abdullah, Mark A. Attiah, Andrew S. Olsen, Andrew Richardson and Timothy H. Lucas


Although the use of topical vancomycin has been shown to be safe and effective for reducing postoperative infection rates in patients after spine surgery, its use in cranial wounds has not been studied systematically. The authors hypothesized that topical vancomycin, applied in powder form directly to the subgaleal space during closure, would reduce cranial wound infection rates.


A cohort of 150 consecutive patients who underwent craniotomy was studied retrospectively. Seventy-five patients received 1 g of vancomycin powder applied in the subgaleal space at the time of closure. This group was compared with 75 matched-control patients who were accrued over the same time interval and did not receive vancomycin. The primary outcome measure was the presence of surgical site infection within 3 months. Secondary outcome measures included tissue pH from a subgaleal drain and vancomycin levels from the subgaleal space and serum.


Vancomycin was associated with significantly fewer surgical site infections (1 of 75) than was standard antibiotic prophylaxis alone (5 of 75; p < 0.05). Cultures were positive for typical skin flora species. As expected, local measured vancomycin concentrations peaked immediately after surgery (mean ± SD 499 ± 37 μg/ml) and gradually decreased over 12 hours. Vancomycin in the circulating serum remained undetectable. Subgaleal topical vancomycin was associated with a lower incidence of surgical site infections after craniotomy. The authors attribute this reduction in the infection rate to local vancomycin concentrations well above the minimum inhibitory concentration for antimicrobial efficacy.


Topical vancomycin is safe and effective for reducing surgical site infections after craniotomy. These data support the need for a prospective randomized examination of topical vancomycin in the setting of cranial surgery.

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Robert G. Kowalski, Alan H. Weintraub, Benjamin A. Rubin, Donald J. Gerber and Andrew J. Olsen


Posttraumatic hydrocephalus (PTH) is a frequent sequela of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and complication of related cranial surgery. The roles of PTH and the timing of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt placement in TBI outcome have not been well described. The goal of this study was to assess the impact of hydrocephalus and timing of ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt placement on outcome during inpatient rehabilitation after TBI.


In this cohort study, all TBI patients admitted to Craig Hospital between 2009 and 2013 were evaluated for PTH, defined as ventriculomegaly, and hydrocephalus symptoms, delayed or deteriorating recovery, or elevated opening pressure on lumbar puncture. Extent of ventriculomegaly was quantified by the Evans index from CT scans. Outcome measures were emergence from and duration of posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) and functional status as assessed by means of the Functional Independence Measure (FIM). Findings in this group were compared to findings in a group of TBI patients without PTH (controls) who were admitted for inpatient rehabilitation during the same study period and met specific criteria for inclusion.


A total of 701 patients were admitted with TBI during the study period. Of these patients, 59 (8%) were diagnosed with PTH and were included in this study as the PTH group, and 204 who were admitted for rehabilitation and met the criteria for inclusion as controls constituted the comparison group (no-PTH group). PTH was associated with initial postinjury failure to follow commands, midline shift or cistern compression, subcortical contusion, and craniotomy or craniectomy. In multivariable analyses, independent predictors of longer PTA duration and lower FIM score at rehabilitation discharge were PTH, emergency department Glasgow Coma Scale motor score < 6, and longer time from injury to rehabilitation admission. PTH accounted for a 51-day increase in PTA duration and a 29-point reduction in discharge FIM score. In 40% of PTH patients with preshunt CT brain imaging analyzed, ventriculomegaly (Evans index > 0.3) was observed 3 or more days before VP shunt placement (median 10 days, range 3–102 days). Among PTH patients who received a VP shunt, earlier placement was associated with better outcome by all measures assessed and independently predicted better FIM total score and shorter PTA duration.


Posttraumatic hydrocephalus predicts worse outcome during inpatient rehabilitation, with poorer functional outcomes and longer duration of PTA. In shunt-treated PTH patients, earlier CSF shunting predicted improved recovery. These results suggest that clinical vigilance for PTH onset and additional studies on timing of CSF diversion are warranted.