Background: Early decompressive hemicraniectomy reduces mortality without increasing the risk of very severe disability among patients 60 years of age or younger with complete or subtotal space-occupying middle-cerebral-artery infarction. Its benefit in older patients is uncertain.
Methods: We randomly assigned 112 patients 61 years of age or older (median, 70 years; range, 61 to 82) with malignant middle-cerebral-artery infarction to either conservative treatment in the intensive care unit (the control group) or hemicraniectomy (the hemicraniectomy group); assignments were made within 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. The primary end point was survival without severe disability (defined by a score of 0 to 4 on the modified Rankin scale, which ranges from 0 [no symptoms] to 6 [death]) 6 months after randomization.
Results: Hemicraniectomy improved the primary outcome; the proportion of patients who survived without severe disability was 38% in the hemicraniectomy group, as compared with 18% in the control group (odds ratio, 2.91; 95% confidence interval, 1.06 to 7.49; P=0.04). This difference resulted from lower mortality in the surgery group (33% vs. 70%). No patients had a modified Rankin scale score of 0 to 2 (survival with no disability or slight disability); 7% of patients in the surgery group and 3% of patients in the control group had a score of 3 (moderate disability); 32% and 15%, respectively, had a score of 4 (moderately severe disability [requirement for assistance with most bodily needs]); and 28% and 13%, respectively, had a score of 5 (severe disability). Infections were more frequent in the hemicraniectomy group, and herniation was more frequent in the control group.
Conclusions: Hemicraniectomy increased survival without severe disability among patients 61 years of age or older with a malignant middle-cerebral-artery infarction. The majority of survivors required assistance with most bodily needs. (Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; DESTINY II Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN21702227.).