Bilateral decompressive craniectomy for severe diffuse traumatic brain injury and intracranial hypertension that was refractory to first line therapies did not improve neurological outcome. This was the Australasian DECRA study.
Emergency Medicine Ireland reviews the paper here.
Another study on decompressive craniectomy, the RESCUE-ICP study, is ongoing, with 306/400 patients now recruited. The RESCUE-ICP investigators make the following comment on the DECRA trial:
“The study showed a significant decrease in intracranial pressure in patients in the surgical group. However, although ICP was lowered by surgery, ICP was not excessively high in the medical group (mean ICP below 24 mmHg pre-randomisation).
RESCUE-ICP differs from DECRA in terms of ICP threshold (25 vs 20 mmHg), timing of surgery (any time after injury vs within 72 hours post-injury), acceptance of contusions and longer follow up (2 years).
The cohort profiles and criteria for entry and randomisation between the DECRA and RESCUE-ICP are therefore very different. Hence the results from the DECRA study should not deter recruitment into RESCUE-ICP. Randomising patients into the RESCUE-ICP study is now even more important!”
It is unclear whether decompressive craniectomy improves the functional outcome in patients with severe traumatic brain injury and refractory raised intracranial pressure.
From December 2002 through April 2010, we randomly assigned 155 adults with severe diffuse traumatic brain injury and intracranial hypertension that was refractory to first-tier therapies to undergo either bifrontotemporoparietal decompressive craniectomy or standard care. The original primary outcome was an unfavorable outcome (a composite of death, vegetative state, or severe disability), as evaluated on the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale 6 months after the injury. The final primary outcome was the score on the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale at 6 months.
Patients in the craniectomy group, as compared with those in the standard-care group, had less time with intracranial pressures above the treatment threshold (P<0.001), fewer interventions for increased intracranial pressure (P<0.02 for all comparisons), and fewer days in the intensive care unit (ICU) (P<0.001). However, patients undergoing craniectomy had worse scores on the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale than those receiving standard care (odds ratio for a worse score in the craniectomy group, 1.84; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05 to 3.24; P=0.03) and a greater risk of an unfavorable outcome (odds ratio, 2.21; 95% CI, 1.14 to 4.26; P=0.02). Rates of death at 6 months were similar in the craniectomy group (19%) and the standard-care group (18%).
In adults with severe diffuse traumatic brain injury and refractory intracranial hypertension, early bifrontotemporoparietal decompressive craniectomy decreased intracranial pressure and the length of stay in the ICU but was associated with more unfavorable outcomes
Decompressive Craniectomy in Diffuse Traumatic Brain Injury
N Engl J Med. 2011 Apr 21;364(16):1493-502