Re-examining decompressive craniectomy medial margin distance from midline as a metric for calculating the risk of post-traumatic hydrocephalus

J Clin Neurosci. 2021 May:87:125-131. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2021.02.025. Epub 2021 Mar 20.


Decompressive craniectomy (DC) is a life-saving procedure in severe traumatic brain injury, but is associated with higher rates of post-traumatic hydrocephalus (PTH). The relationship between the medial craniectomy margin's proximity to midline and frequency of developing PTH is controversial. The primary study objective was to determine whether average medial craniectomy margin distance from midline was closer to midline in patients who developed PTH after DC for severe TBI compared to patients that did not. The secondary objective was to determine if a threshold distance from midline could be identified, at which the risk of developing PTH increased if the DC was performed closer to midline than this threshold. A retrospective review was performed of 380 patients undergoing DC at a single institution between March 2004 and November 2014. Clinical, operative and demographic variables were collected, including age, sex, DC parameters and occurrence of PTH. Statistical analysis compared mean axial craniectomy margin distance from midline in patients with versus without PTH. Distances from midline were tested as potential thresholds. No significant difference was identified in mean axial craniectomy margin distance from midline in patients developing PTH compared with patients with no PTH (n = 24, 12.8 mm versus n = 356, 16.6 mm respectively, p = 0.086). No significant cutoff distance from midline was identified (n = 212, p = 0.201). This study, the largest to date, was unable to identify a threshold with sufficient discrimination to support clinical recommendations in terms of DC margins with regard to midline, including thresholds reportedly significant in previously published research.

Keywords: Decompressive craniectomy; Post-traumatic hydrocephalus; Severe traumatic brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Decompressive Craniectomy / adverse effects
  • Decompressive Craniectomy / methods*
  • Decompressive Craniectomy / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus / diagnosis*
  • Hydrocephalus / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors