Reducing morbidity associated with subdural drain placement after burr‑hole drainage of unilateral chronic subdural hematomas

Acta Neurochirurgica (2023) 165:3207–3215

Placement of a subdural drain after burr-hole drainage of chronic subdural hematoma (cSDH) significantly reduces risk of its recurrence and lowers mortality at 6 months. Nonetheless, measures to reduce morbidity related to drain placement are rarely addressed in the literature. Toward reducing drain-related morbidity, we compare outcomes achieved by conventional insertion and our proposed modification.

Methods In this retrospective series from two institutions, 362 patients underwent burr-hole drainage of unilateral cSDH with subsequent subdural drain insertion by conventional technique or modified Nelaton catheter (NC) technique. Primary endpoints were iatrogenic brain contusion or new neurological deficit. Secondary endpoints were drain misplacement, indication for computed tomography (CT) scan, re-operation for hematoma recurrence, and favorable Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score (≥ 4) at final follow-up.

Results The 362 patients (63.8% male) in our final analysis included drains inserted in 56 patients by NC and 306 patients by conventional technique. Brain contusions or new neurological deficits occurred significantly less often in the NC (1.8%) than conventional group (10.5%) (P = .041). Compared with the conventional group, the NC group had no drain misplacement (3.6% versus 0%; P = .23) and significantly fewer non-routine CT imaging related to symptoms (36.5% versus 5.4%; P < .001). Re-operation rates and favorable GOS scores were comparable between groups.

Conclusion We propose the NC technique as an easy-to-use measure for accurate drain positioning within the subdural space that may yield meaningful benefits for patients undergoing treatment for cSDH and vulnerable to complication risks.