Reinfection following initial cerebrospinal fluid shunt infection

J Neurosurg Pediatrics 6:000–000, 2010. DOI: 10.3171/2010.5.PEDS09457

Significant variation exists in the surgical and medical management of CSF shunt infection. The objectives of this study were to determine CSF shunt reinfection rates following initial CSF shunt infection in a large patient cohort and to determine management, patient, hospital, and surgeon factors associated with CSF shunt reinfection.

Methods. This retrospective cohort study included children who were in the Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS) database, who ranged in age from 0 to 18 years, and who underwent uncomplicated initial CSF shunt placement in addition to treatment for initial CSF shunt infection between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2008. The outcome was CSF shunt reinfection within 6 months. The main predictor variable of interest was surgical approach to treatment of first infection, which was determined for 483 patients. Covariates included patient, hospital, surgeon, and other management factors.

Results. The PHIS database includes 675 children with initial CSF shunt infection. Surgical approach to treatment of the initial CSF shunt infection was determined for 483 children (71.6%). The surgical approach was primarily shunt removal/new shunt placement (in 286 children [59.2%]), but a substantial number underwent externalization (59 children [12.2%]), of whom a subset went on to have the externalized shunt removed and a new shunt placed (17 children [3.5% overall]). Other approaches included nonsurgical management (64 children [13.3%]) and complete shunt removal without shunt replacement (74 children [15.3%]). The 6-month reinfection rate was 14.8% (100 of 675 patients). The median time from infection to reinfection was 21 days (interquartile range [IQR] 5–58 days). Children with reinfection had less time between shunt placement and initial infection (median 50 vs 79 days, p = 0.06). No differences between those with and without reinfection were seen in patient factors (patient age at either shunt placement or initial infection, sex, race/ethnicity, payer, indication for shunt, number of comorbidities, distal shunt location, and number of shunt revisions at first infection); hospital volume; surgeon volume; or other management factors (for example, duration of intravenous antibiotic use). Nonsurgical management was associated with reinfection, and complete shunt removal was negatively associated with reinfection. However, reinfection rates did not differ between the 2 most common surgical approaches: shunt removal/new shunt placement (44 [15.4%] of 286; 95% CI 11.4%–20.1%) and externalization (total 12 [20.3%] of 59; 95% CI 11.0%–32.8%). Externalization followed by shunt removal/new shunt placement (5 [29.4%] of 17; 95% CI 10.3%–56.0%) and nonsurgical management (15 [23.4%] of 64; 95% CI 13.8%–35.7%) had higher, but nonstatistically significant, reinfection rates. The length of stay was shorter for nonsurgical management.

Conclusions. Surgical approach to treatment of initial CSF shunt infection was not associated with reinfection in this large cohort of patients.