Outcomes of 33 patients from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan undergoing bilateral or bicompartmental craniectomy.

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Publication Date



Nursing, Southern Maine Health Care, Neurology, Surgery

Journal Title

Journal of neurosurgery

MeSH Headings

Adult, Afghan Campaign 2001-, Brain Injuries, Craniotomy, Follow-Up Studies, Glasgow Coma Scale, Glasgow Outcome Scale, Head Injuries, Penetrating, Humans, Iraq War, 2003-2011, Male, Middle Aged, Prognosis, Treatment Outcome, United States


OBJECT: There are no published long-term data for patients with penetrating head injury treated with bilateral supratentorial craniectomy, or supra- and infratentorial craniectomy. The authors report their experience with 33 patients treated with bilateral or bicompartmental craniectomy from the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

METHODS: An exploratory analysis of Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) scores at 6 months in 33 patients was performed. Follow-up lasting a median of more than 2 years was performed in 30 (91%) of these patients. The association of GOS score with categorical variables was explored using the Wilcoxon rank-sum test or Kruskal-Wallis analysis of variance. The Spearman correlation coefficient was used for ordinal/continuous data. To provide a clinically meaningful format to present GOS scores with categorical variables, patients with GOS scores of 1-3 were categorized as having a poor outcome and those with scores of 4 and 5 as having a good outcome. This analysis does not include the patients who died in theater or in Germany who underwent bilateral decompressive craniectomy because those figures have not been released due to security concerns.

RESULTS: All patients were men with a median age of 24 years (range 19-46 years) and a median initial Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 5 (range 3-14). At 6 months, 9 characteristics were statistically significant: focus of the initial injury, systemic infection, initial GCS score, initial GCS score excluding patients with a GCS score of 3, GCS score on arrival to the US, GCS score on dismissal from the medical center, Injury Severity Score, and patients with cerebrovascular injury. Six factors were significant at long-term follow-up: focus of initial injury, systemic infection, initial GCS score excluding patients with a GCS score of 3, GCS score on arrival to the US, and GCS score on dismissal from the medical center. At long-term follow-up, 7 (23%) of 30 patients had died, 5 (17%) of 30 had a GOS score of 2 or 3, and 18 (60%) of 30 had a GOS score of 4 or 5.

CONCLUSIONS: In this selected group of patients who underwent bilateral or bicompartmental craniectomy, 60% are independent at long-term follow-up. Patients with bifrontal injury fared best. Systemic infection and cerebrovascular injury corresponded with a worse outcome.



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