Preoperative external tissue expansion for complex cranial reconstructions

Kevin A. Reinard, Hesham M. Zakaria, Ahmad Qatanani, Ian Y. Lee, Jack P. Rock, Herman P. Houin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Reconstruction of large solitary cranial defects after multiple craniotomies is challenging because scalp contraction generally requires more than simple subcutaneous undermining to ensure effective and cosmetically appealing closure. In plastic and reconstructive surgery, soft tissue expansion is considered the gold standard for reconstructing scalp defects; however, these techniques are not well known nor are they routinely practiced among neurosurgeons. The authors here describe a simple external tissue expansion technique that is associated with low morbidity and results in high cosmetic satisfaction among patients. Methods: The authors reviewed the medical records of patients with large cranial defects (> 5 cm) following multiple complicated craniotomies who had undergone reconstructive cranioplasty with preoperative tissue expansion using the DermaClose RC device. In addition to gathering data on patient age, sex, primary pathology, number of craniotomies and/or craniectomies, history of radiation therapy, and duration of external scalp tissue expansion, the authors screened patient charts for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak, meningitis, intracranial abscess formation, dermatitis, and patient satisfaction rates. Results: The 6 identified patients (5 female, 1 male) had an age range from 36 to 70 years. All patients had complicating factors such as recalcitrant scalp infections after multiple craniotomies or cranial radiation, which led to secondary scalp tissue scarring and retraction. All patients were deemed to be potential candidates for rotational flaps with or without skin grafts. All patients underwent the same preoperative tissue expansion followed by standard cranial bone reconstruction. None of the patients developed CSF leak, meningitis, intracranial abscess, dermatitis, or permanent cosmetic defects. None of the patients required a reoperation. Mean follow-up was 117 days. Conclusions: Preoperative scalp tissue expansion with the DermaClose RC device allows for simple and reliable completion of complicated cranial reconstruction with low morbidity rates and high cosmetic satisfaction among patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-868
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Craniectomy
  • Craniotomy
  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Surgical technique

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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