Corticosteroid treatment compared with surgery in chronic subdural hematoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Dana C. Holl*, Victor Volovici, Clemens M.F. Dirven, Fop van Kooten, Ishita P. Miah, Korné Jellema, Wilco C. Peul, Niels A. van der Gaag, Kuan H. Kho, Heleen M. den Hertog, Ruben Dammers, Hester F. Lingsma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is an ongoing debate on the role of corticosteroids in the treatment of chronic subdural hematoma (CSDH). This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of corticosteroids for the treatment of CSDH compared to surgery. Method: A systematic search was performed in relevant databases up to January 2019 to identify RCTs or observational studies that compared at least two of three treatment modalities: the use of corticosteroids as a monotherapy (C), corticosteroids as an adjunct to surgery (CS), and surgery alone (S). Outcome measures were good neurological outcome, need for reintervention, mortality, and complications. Effect estimates were pooled and presented as relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence interval (95%CI). Results: Of 796 initially identified studies, 7 were included in the meta-analysis. Risk of bias was generally high. There were no differences in good neurological outcome between treatment modalities. The need for reintervention varied between 4 and 58% in C, 4–12% in CS, and 7–26% in S. The need for reintervention was lower in CS compared with C (RR 3.34 [95% CI 1.53–7.29]; p < 0.01) and lower in CS compared with S (RR 0.44 [95% CI 0.27–0.72]; p < 0.01). Mortality varied between 0 and 4% in C, 0–13% in CS, and 0–44% in S. Mortality was lower in CS compared with S (RR 0.39 [95% CI 0.25–0.63]; p < 0.01). There were no differences in complications between treatment modalities. Conclusions: This meta-analysis suggests that the addition of corticosteroids to surgery might be effective in the treatment of CSDH. However, the results must be interpreted with caution in light of the serious risk of bias of the included studies. This study stresses the need for large randomized trials to investigate the use of corticosteroids in the management of CSDH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1242
Number of pages12
JournalActa neurochirurgica
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Burr hole
  • Chronic subdural hematoma
  • Corticosteroids
  • Medical management
  • Nonsurgical treatment


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