The case reports of 102 patients with subdural empyema, diagnosed in the years 1935-83, were reviewed to determine the factors affecting the outcome. Statistical analysis (likelihood ratio tests with chi square approximation and logistic regression) showed that year of diagnosis (p less than 0.01) and level of consciousness at the moment of diagnosis (p less than 0.01) had a significant bearing on the chance to survive and that these same two factors (each factor p less than 0.01) and extent of subdural pus accumulation at the moment of diagnosis (p less than 0.05) had a significant bearing on the chance of survival without severe disability. Among others the duration of the disease up to the moment of diagnosis and the mode of the first surgical procedure had no significant bearing on the outcome. These results together with those in the literature are discussed and it is concluded that diagnosis and treatment before the patient lapses into stupor or coma, increases the chance of survival and that with adequate management a mortality rate of 10% or lower is to be expected.
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