✓ The authors evaluated the effectiveness of a simple technique using ethylene oxide (EtO) gas sterilization and room temperature storage of autologous bone grafts for reconstructive cranioplasty following decompressive craniectomy. The authors retrospectively analyzed data in 103 consecutive patients who underwent cranioplasty following decompressive craniectomy for any cause at the University of Illinois at Chicago between 1999 and 2005. Patients with a pre-existing intracranial infection prior to craniectomy or lost to follow-up before reconstruction were excluded. Autologous bone grafts were cleansed of soft tissue, hermetically sealed in sterilization pouches for EtO gas sterilization, and stored at room temperature until reconstructive cranioplasty was performed.
Cranioplasties were performed an average of 4 months after decompressive craniectomy, and the follow-up after reconstruction averaged 14 months. Excellent aesthetic and functional results after single-stage reconstruction were achieved in 95 patients (92.2%) as confirmed on computed tomography. An infection of the bone flap occurred in eight patients (7.8%), and the skull defects were eventually reconstructed using polymethylmethacrylate with satisfactory results. The mean preservation interval was 3.8 months in patients with uninfected flaps and 6.4 months in those with infected flaps (p = 0.02). A preservation time beyond 10 months was associated with a significantly increased risk of flap infection postcranioplasty (odds ratio [OR] 10.8, p = 0.02). Additionally, patients who had undergone multiple craniotomies demonstrated a trend toward increased infection rates (OR 3.0, p = 0.13).
Data in this analysis support the effectiveness of this method, which can be performed at any institution that provides EtO gas sterilization services. The findings also suggest that bone flaps preserved beyond 10 months using this technique should be discarded or resterilized prior to reconstruction.