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Michael Veldeman, Lorina Daleiden, Hussam Hamou, Anke Höllig and Hans Clusmann


Performing a cranioplasty (CP) after decompressive craniotomy is a straightforward neurosurgical procedure, but it remains associated with a high complication rate. Surgical site infection (SSI), aseptic bone resorption (aBR), and need for a secondary CP are the most common complications. This observational study aimed to identify modifiable risk factors to prevent CP failure.


A retrospective analysis was performed of all patients who underwent CP following decompressive hemicraniectomy (DHC) between 2010 and 2018 at a single institution. Predictors of SSI, aBR, and need for allograft CP were evaluated in a univariate analysis and multivariate logistic regression model.


One hundred eighty-six patients treated with CP after DHC were included. The diagnoses leading to a DHC were as follows: stroke (83 patients, 44.6%), traumatic brain injury (55 patients, 29.6%), subarachnoid hemorrhage (33 patients, 17.7%), and intracerebral hemorrhage (15 patients, 8.1%). Post-CP SSI occurred in 25 patients (13.4%), whereas aBR occurred in 32 cases (17.2%). An altered posterior question-mark incision, ending behind the ear, was associated with a significantly lower infection rate and CP failure, compared to the classic question-mark incision (6.3% vs 18.4%; p = 0.021). The only significant predictor of aBR was patient age, in which those developing resorption were on average 16 years younger than those without aBR (p < 0.001).


The primary goal of this retrospective cohort analysis was to identify adjustable risk factors to prevent post-CP complications. In this analysis, a posterior question-mark incision proved beneficial regarding infection and CP failure. The authors believe that these findings are caused by the better vascularized skin flap due to preservation of the superficial temporal artery and partial preservation of the occipital artery. In this trial, the posterior question-mark incision was identified as an easily and costless adaptable technique to reduce CP failure rates.