FREE FLAP TRANSFER FOR THE TREATMENT OF INTRACTABLE POSTCRANIOTOMY SUBDURAL EMPYEMAS AND EPIDURAL ABSCESSES

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

Postcraniotomy subdural empyemas and epidural abscesses are uncommon, potentially lethal, complications of neurosurgery. Patients with these complications may be difficult to manage, and mortality can occur.

METHODS

Between 1997 and 2006, the authors treated eight patients with recalcitrant postcraniotomy subdural empyema and epidural abscess with combinations of myocutaneous free flap transfer. The free flap transfer was intended for patients who could not be cured with conventional surgical debridement and bone flap removal. Patient ages ranged from 15 to 67 years (mean, 41.5 yr). There were six men and two women. Treatment was required for cranial base tumors (n = 3), the result of trauma (n = 2), malignant tumors (n = 2), and cerebral hematoma (n = 1). In six patients (75%), an expanded polytetrafluoroethylene sheet was used as a dural substitute at the original surgery. We used three rectus abdominis myocutaneous flaps and five latissimus dorsi myocutaneous flaps. In six patients (75%), surgery was performed in the chronic stage of infection, and the other two patients were in the acute stage of infection.

RESULTS

Among all the patients, two failures occurred because of flap ischemia, but these were resolved after an additional procedure. However, one of these two patients, in whom surgery was performed at the acute stage of infection, died 4 weeks after the surgery. The postoperative course of the other six patients was uneventful. Isolated microorganisms were methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (four patients), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (three patients), and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (one patient).

CONCLUSION

Myocutaneous free flap transfer allows sufficient blood circulation and dead space control and is resistant to infection. Therefore, free flap transfer is useful for eliminating intractable empyema and abscess; however, it is important that the procedure be considered in the chronic stage of infection.

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