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World Neurosurg. 2011 May-Jun;75(5-6):696-9. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2010.11.014.

Harvey Cushing's repair of a dural defect after a traumatic brain injury: novel use of a fat graft.

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Department of Neurosurgery and Oncology, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



A review of Harvey Cushing's surgical cases at Johns Hopkins Hospital revealed new information about his early work with the use of fat grafts to close dural defects.


The Johns Hopkins Hospital surgical records from 1896 to 1912 were reviewed. A single case in which Cushing used an autologous fat graft to repair a dural defect in 1912 after a traumatic brain injury was selected for further study.


An 18-year-old white female patient presented with recurring seizures in her sleep approximately 12 years after a traumatic brain injury. A depressed skull fracture as a result of this injury was explored by Cushing, and a dural defect was found. Fat was harvested from the thigh of the patient and was sutured in layers to cover the defect. Cushing noted that this was the first of its kind of operation and "probably of very little use." The patient was discharged within 2 weeks after the operation despite recurrence of her seizure episodes.


Despite its questionable functional success, we report herein a previously unpublished operative case by Harvey Cushing's in which an autologous fat graft was used to close a traumatic wound resulting in a dural defect. This report predates currently known published reports of the use of fat to seal dural defects. Cushing recognized that a factor found in fat tissue may aid in wound healing. Contemporary studies indicate the presence of mesenchymal stem cells in fat tissue may be responsible for the accelerated healing and reduced incidence of cerebral spinal fluid leaks after cranial surgery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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