OBJECTIVE Autologous bone is usually used to reconstruct skull defects following decompressive surgery. However, it is associated with a high failure rate due to infection and resorption. The aim of this study was to see whether it would be cost-effective to use titanium as a primary reconstructive material.
METHODS Sixty-four patients were enrolled and randomized to receive either their own bone or a primary titanium cranioplasty. All surgical procedures were performed by the senior surgeon. Primary and secondary outcome measures were assessed at 1 year after cranioplasty.
RESULTS There were no primary infections in either arm of the trial. There was one secondary infection of a titanium cranioplasty that had replaced a resorbed autologous cranioplasty. In the titanium group, no patient was considered to have partial or complete cranioplasty failure at 12 months of follow-up (p = 0.002) and none needed revision (p = 0.053). There were 2 deaths unrelated to the cranioplasty, one in each arm of the trial. Among the 31 patients who had an autologous cranioplasty, 7 patients (22%) had complete resorption of the autologous bone such that it was deemed a complete failure. Partial or complete autologous bone resorption appeared to be more common among young patients than older patients (32 vs 45 years old, p = 0.013). The total cumulative cost between the 2 groups was not significantly different (mean difference A$3281, 95% CI $-9869 to $3308; p = 0.327).
CONCLUSIONS Primary titanium cranioplasty should be seriously considered for young patients who require reconstruction of the skull vault following decompressive craniectomy.