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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2003 Jul;74(7):937-43.

Outcome of contemporary surgery for chronic subdural haematoma: evidence based review.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital, Klinikum Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany.



To evaluate the results of surgical treatment options for chronic subdural haematoma in contemporary neurosurgery according to evidence based criteria.


A review based on a Medline search from 1981 to October 2001 using the phrases "subdural haematoma" and "subdural haematoma AND chronic". Articles selected for evaluation had at least 10 patients and less than 10% of patients were lost to follow up. The articles were classified by three classes of evidence according to criteria of the American Academy of Neurology. Strength of recommendation for different treatment options was derived from the resulting degrees of certainty.


48 publications were reviewed. There was no article that provided class I evidence. Six articles met criteria for class II evidence and the remainder provided class III evidence. Evaluation of the results showed that twist drill and burr hole craniostomy are safer than craniotomy; burr hole craniostomy and craniotomy are the most effective procedures; and burr hole craniostomy has the best cure to complication ratio (type C recommendation). Irrigation lowers the risk of recurrence in twist drill craniostomy and does not increase the risk of infection (type C recommendation). Drainage reduces the risk of recurrence in burr hole craniostomy, and a frontal position of the drain reduces the risk of recurrence (type B recommendation). Drainage reduces the risk of recurrence in twist drill craniostomy, and the use of a drain does not increase the risk of infection (type C recommendation). Burr hole craniostomy appears to be more effective in treating recurrent haematomas than twist drill craniostomy, and craniotomy should be considered the treatment of last choice for recurrences (type C recommendation).


The three principal techniques-twist drill craniostomy, burr hole craniostomy, and craniotomy-used in contemporary neurosurgery for chronic subdural haematoma have different profiles for morbidity, mortality, recurrence rate, and cure rate. Twist drill and burr hole craniostomy can be considered first tier treatment, while craniotomy may be used as second tier treatment. A cumulative summary of data shows that, overall, the postoperative outcome of chronic subdural haematoma has not improved substantially over the past 20 years.

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