When complicated by infection, craniotomy bone flaps are commonly removed, discarded, and delayed cranioplasty is performed. This treatment paradigm is costly, carries the risks associated with additional surgery, and may cause cosmetic deformities.
Auguste et al. retrospectively reviewed the medical records for 12 patients with bone flap infections following craniotomy who received treatment with the wash-in, wash-out indwelling antibiotic irrigation system. Infected flaps were removed and scrubbed with povidone-iodine solution and soaked in 1.5% hydrogen peroxide while the wound was debrided. The bone flaps were returned to the skull and the irrigation system was installed. Antibiotic medication was infused through the system for a mean of 5 days. Intravenous antibiotic therapy was continued for 2 weeks and oral antibiotics for 3 months postoperatively. Wound checks were performed at clinic follow-up visits, and there was a mean follow-up period of 13 months. Eleven of the 12 patients who had undergone placement of the bone flap irrigation system experienced complete resolution of the infection. In five patients there was involvement of the nasal sinus cavities, and in four there was a history of radiation treatment. In the one patient whose infection recurred, there was both involvement of the nasal sinuses and a history of extensive radiation treatment.
Infected bone flaps can be salvaged, thus avoiding the cost, risk, and possible disfigurement associated with flap removal and delayed cranioplasty. Although prior radiation treatment and involvement of the nasal sinuses may interfere with wound healing and clearance of the infection, these factors should not preclude the use of irrigation with antibiotic agents for bone flap salvage 1).