Emergency decompressive craniectomy for fulminating infectious encephalitis

Report of two cases

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  • 1 Department of Surgery, Division of Neurosurgery, Albany Medical Center, Albany, New York; and
  • 2 University of Miami, Department of Neurosurgery, Lois Pope LIFE Center, Miami, Florida

✓In patients who develop fulminant cerebral edema and elevated intracranial pressures, viral encephalitis can result in devastating neurological and cognitive sequelae despite antiviral therapy. The benefits of decompressive craniectomy, if any, in this group of patients are unclear. In this manuscript, the authors report their experience with 2 patients who presented with herpes simplex virus requiring surgical decompression resulting in excellent neurocognitive outcomes. They also review the literature on decompressive craniectomy in patients with fulminating infectious encephalitis.

Four published articles consisting of 13 patients were identified in which the authors had reported their experience with decompressive craniectomy for fulminant infectious encephalitis. Herpes simplex virus was confirmed in 6 cases, Mycoplasma pneumoniae in 2, and an unidentified viral infection in 5 others. All patients developed clinical signs of brainstem dysfunction and underwent surgical decompression resulting in good (Glasgow Outcome Scale [GOS] Score 4) or excellent (GOS Score 5) functional recoveries.

The authors conclude that infectious encephalitis is a neurosurgical disease in cases in which there is clinical and imaging evidence of brainstem compression. Surgical decompression results in excellent recovery of functional independence in both children and adults despite early clinical signs of brainstem dysfunction.

Abbreviations used in this paper:CT = computed tomography; GOS = Glasgow Outcome Scale; HSV = herpes simplex virus; ICP = intracranial pressure.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Eric M. Deshaies, M.D., Department of Surgery, Division of Neurosurgery, Albany Medical Center, 47 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, New York 12208. email: eric_m_deshaies@hotmail.com.
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