Last updated on April 2019

Subgaleal Drains in Decompressive Craniectomies


Brief description of study

This research is about the use of subgaleal drains to prevent accumulation of blood under the skin in patients undergoing surgery to remove part of the skull(craniectomy) and its associated complications. There have been early research that shows usage of subgaleal drains maybe related to increase in complication rates after craniectomy. These complications include hydrocephalus (accumulation of fluid in the brain), new hemorrhages, infection and low blood pressure. The investigators are performing this research to determine which type of subgaleal drains would produce the least complications. With this knowledge, the investigators would be able to reduce the amount of complications for future patients that undergo surgery to remove part of the skull.

The purpose of this study is to determine the rate of complications in the 3 different groups of patients using the different types of drains under the skin in surgeries that involve removal of part of the skull.

All participants will undergo the required surgery to remove part of the skull (craniectomy). Participants will then be randomly assigned to either one of 3 groups which are the vacuum drain group, passive drain group or no drain group.Participants in the vacuum drain group will have vacuum drains inserted during the closing stage of the surgery. Participants in the passive drain group will have passive drains inserted during the closing stage of the surgery. Participants in the no drain group will have a drain inserted during the closing stage of the procedure but the drain will remained closed.

Data will then be collected and analysed to determine if the type of drains influence the rate of complications in craniectomy

Detailed Study Description

Prophylactic subcutaneous drains in surgery have generally been used for detection and drainage of hematomas or excessive secretions. In the past three decades, multiple surgical disciplines have conducted studies to determine the necessity of vacuum drains or even the need of drains altogether and a meta-analysis found that many operations can be carried out safely without prophylactic drainage.

In addition to that, drains have been associated with complications. A few of them include wound infections, injury to tissues, source of discomfort and pain during removal, limiting mobility and additional scarring.

Of all the cranial surgeries, the most commonly performed surgery is decompressive craniectomy. This surgery has been an increasingly common surgical procedure for the neurosurgical community as there is clear evidence from numerous studies that support decompressive craniectomy as a life-saving surgical procedure in traumatic brain injury, malignant middle cerebral artery infarction and spontaneous intracerebral haemorrhage.

Decompressive craniectomies have been associated with many complications including subdural effusions (49%), post-craniectomy hydrocephalus (14%), subgaleal hematomas and new remote hematomas (10.2%). These complications may just be due to the surgery itself. But it may still be possible that these complications are worsened or arise solely due to the routine use of the vacuum drain.

As the utility of decompressive craniectomy increases, efforts should be made to reduce the complications related to it. Studies have been done to optimize and standardize the technique of decompressive craniectomy but the necessity to use the vacuum drains and the possible contribution that these drains may have to the complications of decompressive craniectomies have been overlooked so far. There have been no randomized studies to compare usage of subgaleal vacuum drains, subgaleal passive drains and the omission of subgaleal drains in neurosurgical practice to date.

Usage of subgaleal vacuum drains for decompressive craniectomies have been the usual practice so far to prevent subgaleal hematoma collection. However, this practice is not backed by any strong evidence that these vacuum drains actually deter subgaleal hematoma collection. On top of that, these vacuum drains may itself be causing complications that have not been discovered before. The usual complications associated with prophylactic vacuum drains are surgical site infections and wound breakdown. There are other complications that could be attributed to the routine usage of prophylactic vacuum drains. These include new remote intracranial hematomas, post craniectomy hydrocephalus and bradycardia or hypotension during the skin closure stage of craniectomy.

The investigators plan to compare the complication rates of vacuum drains, passive drains and no drains in decompressive craniectomy. These 3 groups include a group with active vacuum drains, another group with passive non-vacuum drains and a group without any drains. The current practice is to use active or passive vacuum drains as prophylactic drains in patients undergoing decompressive craniectomy.

The complication rates to be studied are:

  1. subgaleal hematoma thickness
  2. new remote hematomas,
  3. post craniectomy hydrocephalus,
  4. surgical site infection,
  5. wound breakdown,
  6. bradycardia/hypotension during closing stage of craniectomy
  7. and functional outcomes of patients at 6 months

If the rates of complications in the groups without a drain or a passive drain are lower or equal to that of the group with active drains, this study may change the paradigm of prophylactic drain usage in decompressive craniectomies

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03777774

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