OBJECT: Craniectomy is a common neurosurgical procedure. Syndrome of the trephined (ST) occurring after craniectomy results in neurologic symptoms that are reversible with cranioplasty. While well-documented, previous literature consisted of case reports, symptom spectrum and risk factors have not been well characterized.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A retrospective review of 29 consecutive cases who underwent decompressive craniectomy within a 30-month period was performed. Patients were considered affected by ST if a previously stable neurological deficit improved within 3 weeks after cranioplasty. Prevalence of ST was measured and association with demographic information, clinical symptoms patterns, indication for and size of craniectomy, as well as radiological signs were tested.

RESULTS: Seven patients (24%) developed ST. Chronic rehabilitation arrest was more common than acute neurologic decline. Factors such as craniectomy size and patient age did not reach statistical significance in development of ST. Radiographic factors were predictive, with a sunken skin flap contour being most sensitive, while ventricular effacement was most specific.

CONCLUSION: ST may have a higher incidence than previously thought, with a chronic rehabilitation arrest being a more common presentation than an acute decline. Medical providers involved in the post surgical care and rehabilitation of these patients should maintain a high index of suspicion for ST.

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Published in Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice, v. 6, no. 3, p. 438-441.

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