Variability among pediatric neurosurgeons in the threshold for ventricular shunting in asymptomatic children with hydrocephalus

J Neurosurg Pediatrics 7:000–000, 2011.DOI: 10.3171/2010.11.PEDS10275

The thresholds for shunting CSF in children with asymptomatic hydrocephalus are unclear; there are neither guidelines nor sufficient research to determine what degree of hydrocephalus should be treated. The authors hypothesize that 1) pediatric neurosurgeons currently have high thresholds for recommending treatment for these children, but 2) there is significant variability among these treatment thresholds.

Methods. The authors surveyed attendees of the Joint Pediatric Neurosurgery Section meeting in Spokane, Washington, in December 2008, regarding their treatment thresholds for 22 clinical scenarios. Each participant was provided an illustration of 5 imaging studies (3 slices each) showing progressively larger ventricles. For each scenario, respondents were asked to indicate the minimum ventricular size they would treat, if any. Responses were quantified from 1 to 6 from smaller to larger, with 6 being no treatment, and a mean theoretical treated ventricular size (MTTVS) was calculated for each scenario.

Results. Respondents were relatively conservative in recommending treatment, with MTTVSs of 3.7–6.0; in 13 scenarios, the MTTVS was greater than 5.0 (larger than the largest presented ventricular size). For scenarios in which a mean frontooccipital ratio could be calculated, the value ranged from 0.55 to 0.67 (moderate to severe hydrocephalus). Although there were clear majority responses for each scenario, there was also significant variability. There were no patterns of association with the respondent’s age, training, board certification, or type or location of practice.

Conclusions. This study demonstrates that pediatric neurosurgeons’ thresholds for treating asymptomatic children with hydrocephalus are generally high, but there is also significant variability.