Post-operative complications of craniotomy and craniectomy


Craniotomy and craniectomy are widely performed emergent neurosurgical procedures and are the prescribed treatment for a variety of conditions from trauma to cancer. It is vital for the emergency radiologist to be aware of expected neuroimaging findings in post-craniotomy and craniectomy patients in order to avoid false positives. It is just as necessary to be familiar with postsurgical complications in these patients to avoid delay in lifesaving treatment. This article will review the commonly encountered normal and abnormal findings in post-craniotomy and craniectomy patients. The expected postoperative CT and MRI appearance of these procedures are discussed, followed by complications. These include hemorrhage, tension pneumocephalus, wound/soft tissue infection, bone flap infection and extradural abscesses. Complications specifically related to craniectomies include extracranial herniation, external brain tamponade, paradoxical herniation, and trephine syndrome.

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Correspondence to Alok A. Bhatt.

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Chughtai, K.A., Nemer, O.P., Kessler, A.T. et al. Post-operative complications of craniotomy and craniectomy. Emerg Radiol 26, 99–107 (2019).

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  • Craniotomy
  • Tension pneumocephalus
  • Abscess
  • Trephine syndrome