A randomized study of urgent computed tomography–based hematoma puncture and aspiration in the emergency department and subsequent evacuation using craniectomy versus craniectomy only

J Neurosurg 117:566–573, 2012

When treating patients with a spontaneous supratentorial massive (≥ 70 ml) intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), the results of surgery are gloomy. A worsening pupil response has been observed in patients preoperatively, despite blood pressure control and diuretic administration. Because open surgery needs time for decompression to occur, the authors conducted a prospective randomized study to determine whether patients who have suffered a massive ICH can benefit from a more urgently performed decompressive procedure.

Methods. Overall, 36 eligible patients admitted 6 or fewer hours post-ictus were enrolled in the study. In Group A, 12 patients underwent CT-based hematoma puncture and partial aspiration in the emergency department (ED) and subsequent evacuation via a craniectomy; in Group B, 24 patients underwent hematoma evacuation via a craniectomy only. Pupil responses were categorized into 5 grades (Grade 0, bilaterally fixed; Grade 1, unilaterally fixed with the fixed pupil > 7 mm; Grade 2, unilaterally fixed with the fixed pupil ≤ 7 mm; Grade 3, a unilaterally sluggish response; and Grade 4, a bilaterally brisk response). Grades were obtained on admission, at surgical decompression (defined as the point at which liquid hematoma began to flow out in Group A and at dural opening in Group B), and at completion of craniectomy. The Barthel Scale was used to assess survivors’ functional outcome at 12 months. Comparisons were made between Groups A and B. Logistic regression analysis was used to evaluate the positive likelihood ratio of all variables for survival and function (Barthel Scale score of ≥ 35 at 12 months).

Results. Decompressive surgery was undertaken approximately 60 minutes earlier in Group A than B. A worsening pupil reflex before decompression was observed in no Group A patient and in 9 Group B patients. At the time of decompression pupil response was better in Group A than B (p < 0.05). Although only approximately one-third of the hematoma volume documented on initial CT scanning had been drained before the craniectomy in Group A, when partial aspiration was followed by craniectomy, better pupil-response results were obtained in Group A at the completion of craniectomy, and survival rate and 12-month Barthel Scale score were better as well (p < 0.05). Logistic regression analysis revealed that one variable, a minimum pupil grade of 3 at the time of decompression, had the highest predictive value for survival at 12 months (8.0, 95% CI 2.0–32.0), and a pupil grade of 4 at the same time was the most valuable predictor of a Barthel Scale score of 35 or greater at 12 months (15.0, 95% CI 1.9–120.9).

Conclusions. Patients with massive spontaneous supratentorial ICHs may benefit from more urgent surgical decompression. The results of logistic regression analysis implied that, to improve long-term functional outcome, decompression should be performed in patients before herniation occurs. Due to the fact that most of these patients have signs of herniation when presenting to the ED and because conventional surgical decompression requires time to take effect, this combination of surgical treatment provides a feasible and effective surgical option.