You’re Not Sticking My Skull in That Freezer, Kentucky Brain Surgeon!

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When an individual experiences a severe traumatic brain injury, or TBI, often the brain swells and is at risk of suffering secondary damage. One way emergency room doctors relieve the resulting pressure is by performing a decompressive craniectomy (DC), a surgical procedure in which a large frontal piece of the skull is removed, kept in a freezer for 60 days, and then replaced during another surgery.

This sounds like a logical move, but a recent study reveals that patients who undergo the surgery are at higher risk for “unfavorable outcomes” down the road.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine involved 155 TBI patients that were randomly assigned to one of two groups; one group received traditional treatment, and the other had a DC.


Although patients in both groups stayed about the same length of time in the hospital, the ones who had a DC had lower pressure within the skull and spent less time in the intensive care unit.

…and Disadvantages

Six months after the TBI, the patients who had DC surgery scored lower on measures of physical function. They were more likely to need help with the activities of daily living, such as moving around and dressing.

So…should the surgery still be done? The intelligent, cautious answer would be yes, in certain cases. With experts in both camps, though, I believe I would elect to keep my skull out of the freezer, thank you!

If someone you love died or suffered brain injury during a medical procedure, contact a Louisville brain injury lawyer. Call Gray and White Law at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.