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Elderly people who receive minor blows to the head may experience bleeding between the skull bone and the brain. To prevent this subdural hemorrhage from causing serious damage, surgery may be required, and now a Swedish research group has found a way to make this type of surgery more efficient.
In the case of subdural hemorrhage, inflammatory fluid mixed with blood accumulates, which leads to swelling and pressure on the brain. To reduce the pressure, surgeons drill holes in the skull bone, drain the fluid, and then flush with an irrigation fluid to get rid of any residual bleeding. It is for the flushing stage that the researchers came up with an improvement.
Today, room-temperature irrigation fluid is normally used, but the researchers tested heating the fluid to body temperature instead. The result was that only 6 percent of the participants in the study who received irrigation fluid at body temperature needed surgery again within six months. The corresponding figure for those who received room-temperature irrigation fluid was more than twice as high, 14 percent.
"The fact that such a simple measure can reduce the number of recurrences, and thus repeat operations, is of great importance above all to reduce unnecessary suffering in this older patient group, but also to reduce the pressure on the healthcare system" says Andreas Bartley, neurosurgeon at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
Heating the liquid a little more is not only simple but also cheap, which allows the method to be used wherever this operation is performed.
"The total number of operations for bleeding under the cranium is expected to increase sharply with the increasing proportion of elderly people in the population. Raising the temperature of the irrigation fluid is a measure that can also easily be applied even in resource-poor low-income countries," says Magnus Tisel, associate professor of neurosurgery at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg and another of the researchers behind the study.