Author(s): Wijdicks EF, Sheth KN, Carter BS, Greer DM, Kasner SE,
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Abstract BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: There are uncertainties surrounding the optimal management of patients with brain swelling after an ischemic stroke. Guidelines are needed on how to manage this major complication, how to provide the best comprehensive neurological and medical care, and how to best inform families facing complex decisions on surgical intervention in deteriorating patients. This scientific statement addresses the early approach to the patient with a swollen ischemic stroke in a cerebral or cerebellar hemisphere. METHODS: The writing group used systematic literature reviews, references to published clinical and epidemiology studies, morbidity and mortality reports, clinical and public health guidelines, authoritative statements, personal files, and expert opinion to summarize existing evidence and to indicate gaps in current knowledge. The panel reviewed the most relevant articles on adults through computerized searches of the medical literature using MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Web of Science through March 2013. The evidence is organized within the context of the American Heart Association framework and is classified according to the joint American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Foundation and supplementary American Heart Association Stroke Council methods of classifying the level of certainty and the class and level of evidence. The document underwent extensive American Heart Association internal peer review. RESULTS: Clinical criteria are available for hemispheric (involving the entire middle cerebral artery territory or more) and cerebellar (involving the posterior inferior cerebellar artery or superior cerebellar artery) swelling caused by ischemic infarction. Clinical signs that signify deterioration in swollen supratentorial hemispheric ischemic stroke include new or further impairment of consciousness, cerebral ptosis, and changes in pupillary size. In swollen cerebellar infarction, a decrease in level of consciousness occurs as a result of brainstem compression and therefore may include early loss of corneal reflexes and the development of miosis. Standardized definitions should be established to facilitate multicenter and population-based studies of incidence, prevalence, risk factors, and outcomes. Identification of patients at high risk for brain swelling should include clinical and neuroimaging data. If a full resuscitative status is warranted in a patient with a large territorial stroke, admission to a unit with neurological monitoring capabilities is needed. These patients are best admitted to intensive care or stroke units attended by skilled and experienced physicians such as neurointensivists or vascular neurologists. Complex medical care includes airway management and mechanical ventilation, blood pressure control, fluid management, and glucose and temperature control. In swollen supratentorial hemispheric ischemic stroke, routine intracranial pressure monitoring or cerebrospinal fluid diversion is not indicated, but decompressive craniectomy with dural expansion should be considered in patients who continue to deteriorate neurologically. There is uncertainty about the efficacy of decompressive craniectomy in patients ≥60 years of age. In swollen cerebellar stroke, suboccipital craniectomy with dural expansion should be performed in patients who deteriorate neurologically. Ventriculostomy to relieve obstructive hydrocephalus after a cerebellar infarct should be accompanied by decompressive suboccipital craniectomy to avoid deterioration from upward cerebellar displacement. In swollen hemispheric supratentorial infarcts, outcome can be satisfactory, but one should anticipate that one third of patients will be severely disabled and fully dependent on care even after decompressive craniectomy. Surgery after a cerebellar infarct leads to acceptable functional outcome in most patients. CONCLUSIONS: Swollen cerebral and cerebellar infarcts are critical conditions that warrant immediate, specialized neurointensive care and often neurosurgical intervention. Decompressive craniectomy is a necessary option in many patients. Selected patients may benefit greatly from such an approach, and although disabled, they may be functionally independent.
This article was published in Stroke
and referenced in Neurochemistry & Neuropharmacology