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J Trauma. 2011 Jul;71(1):133-40. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e318211071f.

Decompressive craniectomy in 14 children with severe head injury: clinical results with long-term follow-up and review of the literature.

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Niño Jesús, Children's Hospital, Madrid, Spain.



Decompressive craniectomy (DC) is a controversial therapeutic measure used in patients with intractable intracranial hypertension after severe head injury. This study describes the morbidity and mortality of DC in 14 children with a mean follow-up of 3.2 years. We review published evidence from the past 10 years on the indications for DC in pediatric brain trauma. We also examine timing, surgical technique, and the results of this procedure.


We retrospectively reviewed patients who underwent DC from 2002 to 2010. Clinical data were collected at admission, as were data on the indication for craniectomy, timing, and surgical technique. Perioperative intracranial pressure (ICP), complications of craniectomy, and Glasgow Outcome Scale score at 2 years were recorded as outcome variables.


Fourteen craniectomies were performed. The median presenting Glasgow Coma Scale score was 6.5 (range, 4-15). Ten patients were presented with anisocoria. In 13 patients, craniectomy initially decreased ICP to <25 mm Hg. Two patients (14%) had a poor prognosis on admission and died. The most frequent complications were hygroma (8 patients) and infections (3 patients). The mean Glasgow Outcome Scale score at the 2-year follow-up visit was 4.4 (range, 4-5). Behavioral and psychiatric abnormalities and poor academic performance were frequent (82%).


DC reduces ICP in pediatric patients with traumatic brain injury. The mortality rate is low and long-term prognosis in survivors is good. Complications related to surgery are frequent. Wide craniectomy with duraplasty seems to be the most common technique. Defining the most appropriate indications and timing for DC in pediatric patients should be the objective of future prospective studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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