Do older patients with acute or subacute subdural hematoma benefit from surgery?

Sander Bus, Dagmar Verbaan, Bertjan J. Kerklaan, Marieke E.S. Sprengers, William P. Vandertop, Jan Stam, Gerrit J. Bouma, Pepijn van den Munckhof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: According to the international guidelines, acute subdural hematomas (aSDH) with a thickness of >10 mm, or causing a midline shift of >5 mm, should be surgically evacuated. However, high mortality rates in older patients resulted in ongoing controversy whether elderly patients benefit from surgery. We identified predictors of outcome in a single-centre cohort of elderly patients undergoing surgical evacuation of aSDH or subacute subdural hematoma (saSDH). Materials and methods: This retrospective study included all patients aged ≥65 years undergoing surgical evacuation of aSDH/saSDH from 2000 to 2015. One-year outcome was dichotomized into favourable (Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) 4–5) and unfavourable (GOS 1–3). Predictors of outcome were identified by analysing patient characteristics. Results: Eighty-four patients aged ≥65 years underwent craniotomy for aSDH/saSDH during the 16 year time period. Twenty-five percent regained functional independence, 11% survived severely disabled, and 64% died. Most patients died of respiratory failure following withdrawal of artificial respiration or following restriction of treatment. Age of the SDH or Glasgow Coma Scores ≤8/intubation did not predict unfavourable outcome. All patients with bilaterally absent pupillary light reflexes died, also those who still exhibited one normal-sized pupil. Conclusion: The low number of operated patients per year probably suggests that this cohort represents a selection of patients who were judged to have good chances of favouring from surgery. Functional independence at one-year follow-up was reached in 25% of patients, 64% died. Patients with bilaterally absent pupillary light reflexes did not benefit from surgery. The tendency to restrict treatment because of presumed poor prognosis may have acted as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Neurosurgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019

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