Outcomes after decompressive craniectomy for severe traumatic brain injury in children

Peter Kan, Aminullah Amini, Kristine Hansen, George L. White, Douglas L. Brockmeyer, Marion L. Walker, John R.W. Kestle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Object. Severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is often accompanied by early death due to transtentorial herniation. Decompressive craniectomy, performed alone or in conjunction with evacuation of the mass lesion, can reduce the incidence of raised intracranial pressure (ICP). In this paper the authors evaluate mortality and morbidity and long-term outcomes in children who underwent decompressive craniectomy for severe TBI at a single institution. Methods. Children with severe TBI who underwent decompressive craniectomy at the Primary Children's Medical Center between 1996 and 2005 were identified retrospectively. Descriptive statistics were used to report postoperative mortality and morbidity rates. Long-term recovery in patients who survived was reported using the King's Outcome Scale for Closed Head Injury (KOSCHI). Fifty-one children with a mean follow-up period of 18.6 months were identified. Nonaccidental trauma accounted for 23.5% of cases. The mean preoperative Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score was 4.6. Six patients underwent decompressive craniectomy for elevated ICP only; all other patients underwent decompressive craniectomy in conjunction with removal of the mass lesion. The mean postoperative GCS score was 9.7, and 69.4% of patients had normal ICP levels immediately after surgery. Sixteen children (31.4%) died, including five of six children who underwent decompressive craniectomy for raised ICP alone. Among surviving patients, 2.9% required a tracheostomy, 11.4% required a gastrostomy, 40% experienced posttraumatic shunt-dependent hydrocephalus, and 20% suffered posttraumatic epilepsy requiring antiepileptic agents. The mean KOSCHI score at the last follow-up examination was 4.5 and the mean time to cranioplasty was 2.3 months. Conclusions. Posttraumatic hydrocephalus and epilepsy were common complications encountered by children with severe TBI who underwent decompressive craniectomy. In patients who underwent decompressive surgery for raised ICP only, the mortality rate was exceedingly high.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-342
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue numberSUPPL. 5
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Decompressive craniectomy
  • Outcome
  • Pediatric neurosurgery
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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