Ultra-Cold Freezer Saves Skull Fragments After Brain Surgery

Brain surgery is an intricate and precise procedure. When extreme swelling of the brain necessitates removal of portions of the skull to relieve pressure, it’s medically preferable to reattach those pieces rather than use prosthetic materials after the swelling subsides. Today, surgeons are able to preserve these fragments in an ultra-cold freezer.

Cerebral Herniation


Dr. Matthew Kang, a neurologist at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, has conducted several procedures that involve the removal of skull fragments to relieve swelling on the brain. In an interview with a local newscast, Dr. Kang discussed the consequences of cerebral swelling. “So if you have uncontrolled swelling and you have the skull on, the brain only has one way to go which is through the bottom, and that’s called a herniation,” Dr. Kang said. A cerebral herniation can lead to increased pressure inside the brain cavity. If untreated, a herniation can be fatal.

Saving the Skull
In order to save a patient, Dr. Kang may remove portions of the skull with a drill.
“It’s much like carpentry,” he said. “We drill a series of holes called burr holes. That would allow the brain to expand beyond the skull borders.”

After the surgery, the patient wears a special protective helmet. The fragments of skull and scalp are stored in an ultra-cold freezer until the brain swelling subsides. The freezer stores the fragments at -80°C (-114°F). These low temperatures preserve the fragments, preventing decomposition and the growth of bacteria. The freezers can store fragments for months during the recovery process.

In one instance, a young man had two large portions of his skull frozen after brain surgery. Kyle Johnson of Salt Lake City, Utah, suffered a traumatic skateboarding accident in 2010 and had to have two sizable fractions of his skull, one on each side, removed to relieve the swelling on his brain. The surgeon, Dr. Blake Welling of the McKay-Dee Hospital in Salt Lake, stored the skull fragments in an ultra-cold freezer for two weeks. After the swelling on Mr. Johnson’s brain receded, the surgeon reattached the fragments with plates and screws.

Features of an Ultra-Cold Freezer
Since retaining the patient’s original skull and scalp fragments can be a key aspect of recovery, the capability of an ultra-low freezer to keep those fragments at a consistent temperature can be vital to the success of the procedure. Operating rooms depend on these ultra-cold freezers, such as the Ultra Low Temperature Freezer Nor-Lake NSSUF281WWW-0, to preserve these fragments. The advanced PLC temperature controller keeps tight control over the inside temperature, while the dual alarm system alerts staff members if the cabinet exceeds its optimum temperature setting.

The skill of the surgeon and the preservation of these skull fragments allow the patients to return to a normal life after a traumatic injury. Although it takes a brain surgeon to accomplish these procedures, it doesn’t require one to see the merits of these life-saving freezers.

For more information on finding a medical freezer that meets your needs, contact the experts at Tovatech.

About Bob Sandor

Bob began working as a chemist in 1987 and remains a science geek to this day. After his PhD he worked on the bench in materials and inorganic chemistry for 10 years. He then took on a love for marketing and sales. He combined his passion for science and business and took entrepreneur general management positions in large corporations like Hoecsht Celanese now Sanofi Aventis, Bel-Art and Smiths Detection. There he learned what it would take to run a business and finally Tovatech was co-founded in 2006. Bob’s hobbies include playing, listening and composing music, skiing, working out, the internet and all things science. Read More