Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Subgaleal Drain Placement Improves Surgical Outcomes After Primary Cranioplasty in Craniosynostosis Patients

Tong, J.W. MBBS; Emelin, Jessica K. MD; Wong, Ryan MD; Meltzer, Hal S. MD; Cohen, Steven Roy MD

doi: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000001224
Clinical Studies

Background: There is no published data addressing the use of postoperative subgaleal drains in patients undergoing primary cranioplasty for craniosynostosis. We conducted a retrospective chart review in this population of patients, comparing outcomes of those who received postoperative drains with those who did not. We hypothesize that the subgaleal drains can significantly diminish postoperative facial edema and reduce the length of hospital stay.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of all patients undergoing primary cranioplasty for craniosynostosis with subgaleal drain placement (May 2010–March 2012). A comparison group without drain placement was matched appropriately to establish a comparison of outcomes. We determined whether subgaleal drainage led to improvement in postoperative facial edema, reduced length of hospital stay, postoperative changes in hematocrit (Hct), and complication rates.

Results: Of the 50 patients in this cohort, 25 patients had received subgaleal drains. The mean length of stay was 2.4 versus 3.5 days for the respective drained and undrained cohorts (P = 0.03). There was no significant difference in the mean decline in Hct between drained and undrained patients, with the mean Hct drop of 4.8% versus 5.0%, respectively (P = 0.83). Postoperative seroma formation developed in 3 undrained patients (17%) versus none in the drained cohort (0%). Although subjective, drained patients were observed to achieve quicker resolution of facial swelling and earlier recovery of eye opening.

Conclusions: There is clinical benefit in subgaleal drain placement as earlier resolution of postoperative facial edema and a significantly shortened length of hospital stay was found among the drained cohort. Future studies warrant prospective clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of using subgaleal drains in cranial remodeling procedures of craniosynostosis.

Center for Craniofacial Disorders, Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, CA.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Steven Roy Cohen, MD, Center for Craniofacial Disorders, Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, CA; E-mail:

Received 12 May, 2014

Accepted 14 July, 2014

Presented at the 62nd Annual Meeting of California Society of Plastic Surgery, San Diego, California.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

© 2015 by Mutaz B. Habal, MD.