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Craniotomy vs. craniectomy for posterior fossa tumors: a prospective study to evaluate complications after surgery

Legnani FG, Saladino A, Casali C, Vetrano IG, Varisco M, Mattei L, Prada F, Perin A, Mangraviti A, Solero CL, Dimeco F

Acta Neurochirurgica 155:12:2281-2286, 2013.



Posterior fossa surgery traditionally implies permanent bone removal. Although suboccipital craniectomy offers an excellent exposure, it could lead to complications. Thus, some authors proposed craniotomy as a valuable alternative to craniectomy. In the present study we compare post-operative complications after craniotomy or craniectomy for posterior fossa surgery.



We prospectively collected data for a consecutive series of patients who underwent either posterior fossa craniotomy or craniectomy for tumor resection. We divided patients into two groups based on the surgical procedure performed and safety, complication rates and length of hospitalization were analyzed. Craniotomies were performed with Control-Depth-Attachment® drill and chisel, while we did craniectomies with perforator and rongeurs.



One-hundred-fifty-two patients were included in the study (craniotomy n = 100, craniectomy n = 52). We detected no dural damage after bone removal in both groups. The total complication rate related to the technique itself was 7 % for the craniotomy group and 32.6 % for the craniectomy group (<0.0001). Pseudomeningocele occurred in 4 % vs. 19.2 % (p = 0.0009), CSF leak in 2 % vs. 11.5 % (p = 0.006) and wound infection in 1 % vs. 1.9 % (p = 0.33), respectively. Post-operative hydrocephalus, a multi-factorial complication which could affect our results, was also calculated and occurred in 4 % of the craniotomy vs. 9.6 % of the craniectomy group (p = 0.08). The mean length of in-hospital stay was 9.3 days for the craniotomy group and 11.8 days for the craniectomy group (p = 0.10).



The present study suggests that fashioning a suboccipital craniotomy is as effective and safe as performing a craniectomy; both procedures showed similar results in preserving dural integrity, while post-operative complications were fewer when a suboccipital craniotomy was performed.

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