The Aalborg Bolt-Connected Drain (ABCD) study: a prospective comparison of tunnelled and bolt-connected external ventricular drains

Acta Neurochirurgica (2019) 161:33–39

Acutely increased intracranial pressure (ICP) is frequently managed by external ventricular drainage (EVD). This procedure is life-saving but marred by a high incidence of complications. It has recently been indicated that bolt-connected external ventricular drainage (BC-EVD) compared to the standard technique of tunnelled EVD (T-EVD) may result in less complications.

Aim To prospectively sample and compare two cohorts by consecutive allocation to either BC-EVD or T-EVD from the introduction of the BC-EVD technique in our department and 12 months onward.

Methods Patients undergoing ventriculostomy between the 1st of March 2017 and the 28th of February 2018 were considered for inclusion. The neurosurgeon on-call sovereignly set the indication and decided on EVD type (BC-EVD or T-EVD), consequently resulting in two cohorts as 3/7 senior neurosurgeons on call were open to the use of BC-EVD, while 4/7 were reluctant to use this technique. Data was continuously collected using patient records, including results of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) culturing and available CT/MRI-scans. Recorded complications included CSF leakage, accidental discontinuation, placement-related intracranial haemorrhage, malfunction, migration, infection and revision.

Results Forty-nine EVDs (32 T-EVDs/17 BC-EVDs) were included; 19/32 (59.4%) T-EVDs and 3/17 (17.6%) BC-EVDs were found to have complications (p = 0.007). The relative risk of complications when using T-EVD was 3.4 times that of BC-EVD.

Conclusion Ventriculostomy by BC-EVD compared to T-EVD reduces incidence and risk of complications and should be the first choice in EVD placement. That said, T-EVD has a role in paediatric patients and for intraoperatively and occipitally placed EVDs.