BACKGROUND: Recent advances in skull base and microsurgical techniques minimize the need for brain retraction.
OBJECTIVE: We studied the impact of such techniques in 36 patients (51 aneurysms) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
METHODS: Preoperative and 24 hours postoperative MR imaging was performed in patients undergoing microsurgical clipping of intracranial aneurysms. Images were evaluated for parenchymal signal changes. During surgery, use and time of brain retraction were recorded. The degree of cortical injury was quantified using a 0 to 3 scale (grade 0 = normal surface; 1 = pial/arachnoidal damage; 2 = gray matter injury; 3 = contusion/necrosis).
RESULTS: Brain retraction by use of a brain spatula was used in all patients. Retraction times ranged from 14 to 290 minutes (mean, 84.1). Cortical surface changes were grade 0 in 86% and grade 1 in 14%; none showed grade 2 or 3 changes. In the postoperative MRI, 4 patients presented with parenchymal alterations, 4 with edema (11.1%), and 1 patient had additional contusion (2.8%). All lesions were confined to the temporal pole. The grade of cortical surface changes was not related to lesions found on MR imaging. No patients showed retraction-related neurological deficits.
CONCLUSION: The incidence of evident mechanical parenchymal injury (infarction or contusion) is very low when appropriate microsurgical and skull base techniques are used. Minor pia-arachnoid injury should nevertheless continue to be attended through future advances.