One-year outcome after decompressive surgery for massive nondominant hemispheric infarction

Neurosurgery. 1997 Jun;40(6):1168-75; discussion 1175-6. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199706000-00010.


Objective: Massive cerebral infarction is often accompanied by early death secondary to transtentorial herniation. We have tested the hypothesis that decompressive hemicraniectomy for massive nondominant cerebral infarction is lifesaving in a series of 14 patients presenting with right hemispheric infarction and clinical signs of uncal herniation and impending death. We have further analyzed, in prospective follow-up examinations, the levels of physical, psychiatric, and social disabilities in these patients.

Methods: The methods used included retrospective analysis to determine rates of immediate mortality and morbidity after surgical intervention. Prospective follow-up data were obtained to determine the level of recovery in surviving patients after 1 year. Standardized measures of outcome to assess physical, psychiatric, and social recovery included the Barthel Index, Zung Depression Scale, and Reintegration to Normal Living Index.

Results: With decompressive hemicraniectomy, we were able to prevent death secondary to transtentorial herniation in all cases; 11 patients experienced long-term survival after the procedure, and three deaths were related to non-neurological causes. We observed that 8 of the 11 surviving patients were at home, were functioning with minimal to moderate assistance, and had Barthel scores greater than 60. The remaining three patients were severely disabled. Seven of the 11 survivors were able to walk at 1 year after undergoing the procedure. Depression and failure to reintegrate socially were experienced by most patients.

Conclusion: This series confirms the lifesaving nature of hemicraniectomy in patients deteriorating because of cerebral edema after infarction. In patients younger than 50 years, recovery to a state of near-independence is possible.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / classification
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Edema / mortality
  • Brain Edema / surgery*
  • Cause of Death
  • Cerebral Infarction / mortality
  • Cerebral Infarction / surgery*
  • Child
  • Craniotomy / methods*
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology*
  • Encephalocele / mortality
  • Encephalocele / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Prospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome