Neurological recovery after decompressive craniectomy for massive ischemic stroke

Arnold Cheung, Christopher K. Telaghani, Jian-li Wang, Qing Yang, Timothy Mosher, Raymond Reichwein, Kevin Cockroft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Introduction: Decompressive craniectomy has demonstrated efficacy in reducing morbidity and mortality in critically ill patients with massive hemispheric cerebral infarction. However, little is known about the patterns of functional recovery that exist in patients after decompressive craniectomy, and controversy still exists as to whether craniotomy and infarct resection ("strokectomy") are appropriate alternatives to decompression alone. We therefore used functional magnetic resonance imaging (f-MRI) to assess the extent and location of functional recovery in patients after decompressive craniectomy for massive ischemic stroke. Methods: f-MRI was obtained in three patients with massive nondominant cerebral infarction who had undergone decompressive craniectomy for severe cerebral edema 13 to 26 months previously. Brain activation was triggered by hand-gripping or foot-movement tasks. Imaging results were combined with periodic clinical follow-up to determine the extent of neurological recovery. Results: Activation of the contralateral hemisphere was seen in the sensorimotor cortex, premotor, and supplementary motor areas. Lesser activation patterns were seen in equivalent regions of the infarcted hemisphere. Peri-infarct activation foci were seen in two of the three patients, but no activation occurred within the area of infarction as defined by the initial stroke seen on diffusion-weighted MRI. All three patients demonstrated some corresponding neurological improvement. Conclusion: After massive hemispheric cerebral infarction requiring decompressive craniectomy, patients may experience functional recovery as a result of activation in both the infarcted and contralateral hemispheres. The evidence of functional recovery in peri-infarct regions suggests that decompression alone may be preferable to strokectomy where the risk of damage to adjacent nonischemic brain may be greater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-223
Number of pages8
JournalNeurocritical Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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