Maroun J. Mhanna, Wael EI Mallah, Margaret Verrees, Rajiv Shah and Dennis M. Super
Decompressive craniectomy (DC) for the management of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is controversial. The authors sought to determine if DC improves the outcome of children with severe TBI.
In a retrospective, case-control study, medical records of all patients admitted to the pediatric ICU between May 1998 and May 2008 with severe TBI and treated with DC were identified and matched to patients who were treated medically without DC. Medical records were reviewed for patients’ demographic data and baseline characteristics.
During the study period, 17 patients with severe TBI treated with DC at a median of 2 hours (interquartile range [IQR] 1–14 hours) after admission were identified and matched to 17 contemporary controls. On admission, there were no differences between DC and control patients regarding age (10.2 ± 5.9 years vs 12.4 ± 5.4 years, respectively [mean ± SD]), sex, weight, Glasgow Coma Scale score (median 5 [IQR 3–7] vs 4 [IQR 3–6], respectively; p = 0.14), or the highest intracranial pressure (median 42 [IQR 22–54] vs 30 [IQR 21–36], respectively; p = 0.77). However, CT findings were significant for a higher rate of herniation and cerebral edema among patients with DC versus controls (7/17 vs 2/17, respectively, had herniation [p = 0.05] and 14/17 vs 6/17, respectively, had cerebral edema [p = 0.006]). Overall there were no significant differences in survival between patients with DC and controls (71% [12/17] vs 82% [14/17], respectively; p = 0.34). However, among survivors, at 4 years (IQR 1–6 years) after the TBI, 42% (5/12) of the DC patients had mild disability or a Glasgow Outcome Scale score of 5 vs none (0/14) of the controls (p = 0.012).
In this retrospective, small case-control study, the authors have shown that early DC in pediatric patients with severe TBI improves outcome in survivors. Future prospective randomized controlled studies are needed to confirm these findings.