Reducing the risks of proximal and distal shunt failure in adult hydrocephalus

J Neurosurg 136:877–886, 2022

Patient outcomes of ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt surgery, the mainstay treatment for hydrocephalus in adults, are poor because of high shunt failure rates. The use of neuronavigation or laparoscopy can reduce the risks of proximal or distal shunt catheter failure, respectively, but has less independent effect on overall shunt failures. No adult studies to date have combined both approaches in the setting of a shunt infection prevention protocol to reduce shunt failure. The goal of this study was to determine whether combining neuronavigation and laparoscopy with a shunt infection prevention strategy would reduce the incidence of shunt failures in adult hydrocephalic patients.

METHODS Adult patients (age ≥ 18 years) undergoing VP shunt surgery at a tertiary care institution prior to (pre–Shunt Outcomes [ShOut]) and after (post-ShOut) the start of a prospective continuous quality improvement (QI) study were compared. Pre-ShOut patients had their proximal and distal catheters placed under conventional freehand approaches. Post-ShOut patients had their shunts inserted with neuronavigational and laparoscopy assistance in placing the distal catheter in the perihepatic space (falciform technique). A shunt infection reduction protocol had been instituted 1.5 years prior to the start of the QI initiative. The primary outcome of interest was the incidence of shunt failure (including infection) confirmed by standardized criteria indicating shunt revision surgery.

RESULTS There were 244 (115 pre-ShOut and 129 post-ShOut) patients observed over 7 years. With a background of shunt infection prophylaxis, combined neuronavigation and laparoscopy was associated with a reduction in overall shunt failure rates from 37% to 14%, 45% to 22%, and 51% to 29% at 1, 2, and 3 years, respectively (HR 0.44, p < 0.001). Shunt infection rates decreased from 8% in the pre-ShOut group to 0% in the post-ShOut group. There were no proximal catheter failures in the post-ShOut group. The 2-year rates of distal catheter failure were 42% versus 20% in the pre- and post-ShOut groups, respectively (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS Introducing a shunt infection prevention protocol, placing the proximal catheter under neuronavigation, and placing the peritoneal catheter in the perihepatic space by using the falciform technique led to decreased rates of infection, distal shunt failure, and overall shunt failure.

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