Ultra-low-pressure hydrocephalic state in NPH: benefits of therapeutic siphoning with adjustable antigravity valves

Acta Neurochirurgica (2020) 162:2967–2974

Idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a condition of the elderly treated by ventriculoperitoneal shunt (VP) insertion. A subset of NPH patients respond only temporarily to shunt insertion despite low valve opening pressure. This study aims to describe our experience of patients who benefit from further CSF drainage by adding adjustable antigravity valves and draining CSF at ultra-low pressure.

Methods Single-centre retrospective case series of patients undergoing shunt valve revision from an adjustable differential pressure valve with fixed antigravity unit to a system incorporating an adjustable gravitational valve (Miethke proSA). Patients were screened from a database of NPH patients undergoing CSF diversion over 10 consecutive years (April 2008– April 2018). Clinical records were retrospectively reviewed for interventions and clinical outcomes.

Results Nineteen (10F:9M) patients underwent elective VP shunt revision to a system incorporating an adjustable gravitational valve. Mean age 77.1 ± 7.1 years (mean ± SD). Eleven patients (58%) showed significant improvement in walking speed following shunt revision. Fourteen patients/carers (74%) reported subjective improvements in symptoms following shunt revision.

Conclusions Patients presenting symptoms relapse following VP shunting may represent a group of patients with ultra-low pressure hydrocephalus, for whom further CSF drainage may lead to an improvement in symptoms. These cases may benefit from shunt revision with an adjustable gravitational valve, adjustment of which can lead to controlled siphoning of CSF and drain CSF despite ultra-low CSF pressure.