Rates of operative intervention for infection after synthetic or autologous cranioplasty: a National Readmissions Database analysis

Truong H. Do, Jinci Lu, Elise F Palzer, Samuel W Cramer, Jared D. Huling, Reid A Johnson, Ping Zhu, James N. Jean IV, Madeleine A Howard, Luke Sabal, Jacob T Hanson, Alec B Jonason, Kevin W. Sun, Robert A. McGovern, Clark C Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to characterize the clinical utilization and associated charges of autologous bone flap (ABF) versus synthetic flap (SF) cranioplasty and to characterize the postoperative infection risk of SF versus ABF using the National Readmissions Database (NRD). METHODS The authors used the publicly available NRD to identify index hospitalizations from October 2015 to December 2018 involving elective ABF or SF cranioplasty after traumatic brain injury (TBI) or stroke. Subsequent readmissions were further characterized if patients underwent neurosurgical intervention for treatment of infection or suspected infection. Survey Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess risk of readmission. RESULTS An estimated 2295 SF and 2072 ABF cranioplasties were performed from October 2015 to December 2018 in the United States. While the total number of cranioplasty operations decreased during the study period, the proportion of cranioplasties utilizing SF increased (p < 0.001), particularly in male patients (p = 0.011) and those with TBI (vs stroke, p = 0.012). The median total hospital charge for SF cranioplasty was $31,200 more costly than ABF cranioplasty (p < 0.001). Of all first-time readmissions, 20% involved surgical treatment for infectious reasons. Overall, 122 SF patients (5.3%) underwent surgical treatment of infection compared with 70 ABF patients (3.4%) on readmission. After accounting for confounders using a multivariable Cox model, female patients (vs male, p = 0.003), those discharged nonroutinely (vs discharge to home or self-care, p < 0.001), and patients who underwent SF cranioplasty (vs ABF, p = 0.011) were more likely to be readmitted for reoperation. Patients undergoing cranioplasty during more recent years (e.g., 2018 vs 2015) were less likely to be readmitted for reoperation because of infection (p = 0.024). CONCLUSIONS SFs are increasingly replacing ABFs as the material of choice for cranioplasty, despite their association with increased hospital charges. Female sex, nonroutine discharge, and SF cranioplasty are associated with increased risk for reoperation after cranioplasty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-521
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported in part by funding from MnDRIVE,

Publisher Copyright:
© AANS 2023.


  • administrative database
  • autologous
  • cranioplasty
  • infection
  • synthetic

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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