Wound healing disorders and surgical site infections are the most frequently encountered complications after decompressive hemicraniectomy (DHC). Subgaleal CSF accumulation causes additional tension of the scalp flap and increases the risk of wound dehiscence, CSF fistula, and infection. Lumbar CSF drainage might relieve subgaleal CSF accumulation and is often used when a CSF fistula through the surgical wound appears. The aim of this study was to investigate if early prophylactic lumbar drainage might reduce the rate of postoperative wound revisions and infections after DHC.
The authors retrospectively analyzed 104 consecutive patients who underwent DHC from January 2019 to May 2021. Before January 2020, patients did not receive lumbar drainage, whereas after January 2020, patients received lumbar drainage within 3 days after DHC for a median total of 4 (IQR 2-5) days if the first postoperative CT scan confirmed open basal cisterns. The primary endpoint was the rate of severe wound healing complications requiring surgical revision. Secondary endpoints were the rate of subgaleal CSF accumulations and hygromas as well as the rate of purulent wound infections and subdural empyema.
A total of 31 patients died during the acute phase; 34 patients with and 39 patients without lumbar drainage were included for the analysis of endpoints. The predominant underlying pathology was malignant hemispheric stroke (58.8% vs 66.7%) followed by traumatic brain injury (20.6% vs 23.1%). The rate of surgical wound revisions was significantly lower in the lumbar drainage group (5 [14.7%] vs 14 [35.9%], p = 0.04). A stepwise linear regression analysis was used to identify potential covariates associated with wound healing disorder and reduced them to lumbar drainage and BMI. One patient was subject to paradoxical herniation. However, the patient’s symptoms rapidly resolved after lumbar drainage was discontinued, and he survived with only moderate deficits related to the primary disease. There was no significant difference in the rate of radiological herniation signs. The median lengths of stay in the ICU were similar, with 12 (IQR 9-23) days in the drainage group compared with 13 (IQR 11-23) days in the control group (p = 0.21).
In patients after DHC and open basal cisterns on postoperative CT, lumbar drainage appears to be safe and reduces the rate of surgical wound revisions and intracranial infection after DHC while the risk for provoking paradoxical herniation is low early after surgery.