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Decompressive craniectomy for malignant middle cerebral artery infarction outcome

According to current evidence, adding decompressive craniectomy (DC) to best medical therapy reduces case fatality rate of malignant middle cerebral artery infarction by 50-75%.

Early critics cited the poor functional outcome, particularly with dominant hemisphere involvement, resulting in higher percentage of surviving patients who were dependent on caregivers, increasing their burden. Furthermore, the complication from surgery as well as the cosmetic deformity was deemed unacceptable. Various unresolved issues remained in these early trials, which included timing of surgery, age limit, the limits of acceptable outcome and patient selection. Results from three European randomized controlled trials for decompressive craniectomy in malignant MCA territory infarction, the DECIMAL, HAMLET, and DESTINY trials published in 2007, demonstrated a significant reduction in mortality rates and improvement in functional outcome in patients treated with decompressive craniectomy as compared to medical therapy 1).

Patients showed different attitude to disability according to their age. Patients aged > 70 years showed the lowest worst acceptable mRS after surgical treatment of malignant infarction. Language impairment with dominant hemispheric infarction further decreased the worst acceptable mRS 2).

The mortality rate of patients with brain edema after malignant middle cerebral artery infarction approaches 80 % without surgical intervention. Surgical treatment with ipsilateral decompressive hemicraniectomy (DHC) has been shown to dramatically improve survival rates. DHC currently lacks established inclusion criteria and additional research is needed to assess the impact of prognostic factors on functional outcome.

Reduction in midline shift following hemicraniectomy was associated with improved consciousness and six-month survival in patients with MMI. Hence, it may be an early indicator of effective decompression following hemicraniectomy 3).

Patients with malignant middle cerebral artery infarction frequently develop hydrocephalus after decompressive hemicraniectomy. Hydrocephalus itself and known shunt related complications after ventriculoperitoneal shunt implantation may negatively impact patients outcome.

A later time point of cranioplasty might lead to a lower incidence of required shunting procedures in general 4).

Critical reviews

A literature search was conducted using Medline, Embase, PubMed and the Cochrane Library. Randomised controlled trials and meta-analysis that fulfilled the inclusion criteria and answered the clinical question were evaluated.

Twelve papers were identified and considered appropriate to answer the clinical question. These included 8 prospective randomised controlled trials and 4 meta-analysis. A critical review of these papers was conducted.

In patients 60 years of age or younger, DC within 48 hours of stroke onset significantly reduced risk of death and major disability (mRS >3) compared to maximal medical therapy only. In older patients (>60 years) DC also significantly improved survival but the majority of survivors were left with major disability (mRS 4-5). DC performed more than 48 hours after symptom onset does not appear to be superior to best medical management. The decision to perform decompressive surgery needs to be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the degree of disability patients and their carers are willing to accept 5).

Case series


From January 2005 to December 2014, a total of 75 patients with acute MCA IS underwent decompressive craniectomy. Median age was 55 years (interquartile range 44-64) with male preponderance (66%) and median National Institute of Health Stroke Scale score 21 points (interquartile range 18-24). A considerable proportion of these patients (38.7%) received intravenous thrombolysis. The majority (70%) of patients suffered right MCA IS, and decompressive surgery was performed within 48 hours of symptom onset in 50 (67%) of the patients. Favorable functional outcome was achieved in 25 (33.3%) patients at 6 months. Right MCA stroke (odds ratio 9.158; 95% confidence interval 1.881-44.596, P = 0.006) and early decompression surgery (odds ratio 4.011; 95% confidence interval 1.058-15.208, P = 0.041) were independent predictors of favorable functional outcome at 6 months.

Early decompression craniectomy, especially in right MCA ischemic stroke, is associated with better favorable functional outcome. 6).

The records of 101 patients with large hemispheric infarctions undergoing DC were retrospectively reviewed. Twenty-seven patients had additional ACA and/or PCA infarcts. Sequential CTs were used for postoperative follow-up. Intracranial pressure (ICP) was monitored via a ventricular catheter in comatose patients. The main aim of treatment was to keep midline shift below 10 mm and ICP below 20 mmHg. If midline shift increased despite preceding DC, repeat surgery with removal of clearly necrotic tissue was considered. For the current analysis, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) at 14 days and modified Rankin Scale (mRS) at 3 months were used as outcome parameters. mRS 2 and 3 were defined as “moderate disability”, mRS 4 as “severe disability”, and mRS 5 and 6 as “poor outcome”. These outcome parameters were correlated to age, gender, side, vascular territory, and time delay after stroke, GCS at the time of decompression, maximum ICP, maximum midline shift, and delay of maximum shift.

The median age of the 39 female and 62 male patients was 56 years (range, 5-79 years). Overall, 12 patients died in the acute stage (11.9%). Twenty-three (22.8%) patients recovered to moderate disability at 3 months (mRS ≤ 3), 45 (44.6%) to severe disability and 33 (32.6%) suffered a poor outcome (mRS 5 or 6). Twenty patients (19.8%) required additional necrosectomy due to secondary increasing midline shift and/or intracranial hypertension. Patients recovering to moderate disability at 3 months were in the median 10 years younger than patients with less favorable outcome (P < 0.001) and had a higher GCS prior to surgery (P < 0.001). Eleven of the 27 patients with infarctions exceeding the MCA territory needed secondary surgery, indicating a higher necrosectomy rate as for isolated MCA infarction. At 3 months, the distribution of the outcomes in terms of mRS was comparable between the patients suffering from extended infarctions and patients having isolated MCA stroke. Infarctions exceeding the territory of the middle cerebral artery were seen in 30% of the group recovering to moderate disability and thus as frequent as in the groups suffering a less favorable outcome.

Intensified postoperative management including possible secondary decompression with necrosectomy may further reduce case fatality rate of patients with large hemispheric infarction. Age above 60 years and severely reduced level of consciousness are the most significant factors heralding unfavorable recovery. Patients suffering infarctions exceeding the MCA territory have a comparable chance of favorable recovery as patients with isolated MCA infarction 7).


53 patients underwent decompressive craniectomy after malignant MCA infarction between January 2012 and May 2014 at tertiary care hospital.

They were analyzed for preoperative clinical condition, timing of surgery, cause of infarction, and location and extension of infarction. The outcome was assessed in terms of mortality and scores like modified Rankin scale (mRS).

Totally, 53 patients aged between 22 and 80 years (mean age was 54.92 ± 11.8 years) were analyzed in this study. Approximately, 60% patients were older than 60 years. Approximately, 74% patients operated within 48 h (25 patients) had mRS 0-3 at discharge while 56% patients operated after 48 h had mRS 0-3 at discharge which is not significant statistically. 78% patients aged below 60 years had mRS 0-3 at discharge while only 38% patients aged above 60 years had mRS 0-3 at discharge which was statistically significant (P < 0.008).

Decompressive craniectomy has reduced morbidity and mortality especially in people aged below 60 years and those operated within 48 h of malignant MCA stroke though those operated outside 48 h of stroke also fare well neurologically, there is no reason these patients should be denied surgery 8).


A retrospective case review study was conducted to compare patients treated with medical therapy and decompressive surgery for malignant MCA infarction in Hospital Kuala Lumpur over a period of 5 years (from January 2007 to December 2012). A total of 125 patients were included in this study; 90 (72%) patients were treated with surgery, while 35 (28%) patients were treated with medical therapy. Outcome was assessed in terms of mortality rate at 30 days, Glasgow Outcome Score (GOS) on discharge, and modified Rankin scale (mRS) at 3 and 6 months.

Decompressive craniectomy resulted in a significant reduction in mortality rate at 30 days (P < 0.05) and favorable GOS outcome at discharge (P < 0.05). Good functional outcome based on mRS was seen in 48.9% of patients at 3 months and in 64.4% of patients at 6 months (P < 0.05). Factors associated with good outcome include infarct volume of less than 250 ml, midline shift of less than 10 mm, absence of additional vascular territory involvement, good preoperative Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, and early surgical intervention (within 24 h) (P < 0.05). Age and dominant hemisphere infarction had no significant association with functional outcome.

Decompressive craniectomy achieves good functional outcome in, young patients with good preoperative GCS score and favorable radiological findings treated with surgery within 24 h of ictus 9).

1) , 9)
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Paliwal P, Kazmi F, Teoh HL, Yeo LLL, Seet RCS, Yeo TT, Sein L, Chou N, Tan T, Chan BPL, Sharma VK. Early Decompressive Hemicraniectomy for Malignant Middle Cerebral Artery Infarction in Asian Patients: A Single-Center Study. World Neurosurg. 2018 Jan 6. pii: S1878-8750(18)30012-3. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2017.12.157. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29317364.
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decompressive_craniectomy_for_malignant_middle_cerebral_artery_infarction_outcome.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/20 11:50 by administrador