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What is decompressive craniectomy?

A decompressive craniectomy is a neurosurgical procedure in which a section of the skull, called a bone flap, is removed.

Why it's done

In some cases of severe, traumatic brain injury, a decompressive craniectomy may be necessary to allow the brain to swell without being squeezed by the skull.

Our approach

At the Northwell Health Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery, we’re on the leading edge of treatments for traumatic brain injuries. Surgical procedures, such as decompressive craniectomy, are utilized to relieve swelling of the brain (known as cerebral edema) due to severe brain injury, infection, brain tumors and/or stroke. Each member of our team is dedicated to providing high-quality care to all our patients. Our multidisciplinary team includes:

  • Fellowship trained neurosurgeons
  • Otolaryngologists
  • Reconstructive surgeons
  • Neuro-oncologists
  • Neuroradiologists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Nurses
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physician assistants
  • Physical therapists


Potential risks and complications of decompressive craniectomy include:

  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Nerve damage
  • Loss of mental functions
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Infection
  • Hydrocephalus


The prognosis following a decompressive craniectomy will vary depending on the reason for the procedure. In some cases, patients may have disabilities that can vary in type and severity depending on the:

  • Severity of the injury
  • Location of the injury
  • Age and general health of the patient
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