Journal of Neurosurgery, Ahead of Print.
OBJECTIVEAutologous bone cranioplasty after decompressive craniectomy entails a notable burden of difficult postoperative complications, such as infection and bone flap resorption (BFR), leading to mechanical failure. The prevalence and significance of asymptomatic BFR is currently unclear. The aim of this study was to radiologically monitor the long-term bone flap survival and bone quality change in patients undergoing autologous cranioplasty.METHODSThe authors identified all 45 patients who underwent autologous cranioplasty at Oulu University Hospital, Finland, between January 2004 and December 2014. Using perioperative and follow-up CT scans, the volumes and radiodensities of the intact bone flap prior to surgery and at follow-up were calculated. Relative changes in bone flap volume and radiodensity were then determined to assess cranioplasty survival. Sufficient CT scans were obtainable from 41 (91.1%) of the 45 patients.RESULTSThe 41 patients were followed up for a median duration of 3.79 years (25th and 75th percentiles = 1.55 and 6.66). Thirty-seven (90.2%) of the 41 patients had some degree of BFR and 13 (31.7%) had a remaining bone flap volume of less than 80%. Patients younger than 30 years of age had a mean decrease of 15.8% in bone flap volume compared with the rest of the cohort. Bone flap volume was not found to decrease linearly with the passing of time, however. The effects of lifestyle factors and comorbidities on BFR were nonsignificant.CONCLUSIONSIn this study BFR was a very common phenomenon, occurring at least to some degree in 90% of the patients. Decreases in bone volume were especially prominent in patients younger than 30 years of age. Because the progression of resorption during follow-up was nonlinear, routine follow-up CT scans appear unnecessary in monitoring the progression of BFR; instead, clinical follow-up with mechanical stability assessment is advised. Partial resorption is most likely a normal physiological phenomenon during the bone revitalization process.