Seizures after decompressive hemicraniectomy for ischaemic stroke

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The risk of seizures after malignant middle cerebral artery (MCA) infarction with decompressive hemicraniectomy (DHC) is uncertain. Also unknown is how this complication influences survivors’ recovery and quality of life.


We retrospectively reviewed medical charts of all patients admitted to Harborview Medical Center between 1 January 2002 and 31 June 2011 for space-occupying MCA ischaemic stroke and who underwent DHC. Survivors and their surrogates were invited to participate in a telephone or in-person interview.


Fifty-five patients were followed for a median of 311 days (IQR 134–727). Twenty-seven patients (49%) had seizures, 25 (45%) developed epilepsy and 21 (38%) achieved moderate disability or better (modified Rankin Scale score ≤3) by 1 year after stroke onset. The only factor significantly associated with seizure occurrence was male gender. Median time from stroke to first seizure was 222 days, with a cluster of first seizures within weeks after cranioplasty; only two of the first seizures occurred right around the time of stroke onset. Follow-up time was significantly longer for patients with seizures (605 days, IQR 297–882) than for those without (221 days, IQR 104–335). Of the 20 patients interviewed, 12 achieved moderate disability or better, 15 experienced a seizure with 6 indicating the seizure was a major drawback. Regardless, all 20 would have chosen DHC again.


In this case series, patients were at high risk of developing seizures after malignant MCA stroke with DHC, especially after cranioplasty. Assuming these findings are replicated, means should be sought to reduce the occurrence of this complication.

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