Traumatic subdural effusion with concomitant hydrocephalus

J Neurosurg 116:558–565, 2012. DOI: 10.3171/2011.10.JNS11711

Traumatic subdural effusion (TSE) is a common sequela of traumatic brain injury. Surgical intervention is suggested only when TSE exerts mass effect. The authors have found that many patients with TSE exerting mass effect have concomitant hydrocephalus. Patient experiencing this occurrence were studied, and the pathogenesis of this phenomenon was discussed in the context of recent advances in the understanding of CSF circulation.

Methods. During a 2-year period, the authors’ institution treated 14 patients with TSE who developed hydrocephalus, after 1 of the patients suffered subdural drainage and other 13 received subdural peritoneal shunt (SPSs). Thirteen of those who had SPSs received programmable ventriculoperitoneal shunts (VPSs) for the hydrocephalus. The clinical characteristics as well as the imaging and operative findings of these patients were reviewed.

Results. All patients with symptomatic TSE exerting mass effect received SPSs. All of these patients had a modified Frontal Horn Index of more than 0.33 at presentation, and high opening pressure on durotomy. Following a brief period (4–7 days) of clinical improvement, the condition of all patients deteriorated due to hydrocephalus. Programmable VPSs were inserted with the initial pressure set at approximately 8–10 cm H2O according to opening pressure at ventriculostomy. Shunt valve pressure was gradually decreased to 5–7 cm H2O, according to clinical and radiological follow-up.

Conclusions. Elevated modified Frontal Horn Index in patients with TSE is suggestive of concomitant hydrocephalus. The authors propose that tearing of the dura-arachnoid plane following trauma contributes to TSE and may also impede CSF circulation, causing hydrocephalus. Shunt pressure was adjusted to relative low pressure, indicating the old age of the patients and poor reexpansion of brain parenchyma after the mass effect. Subdural peritoneal shunts and VPSs are indicated in those patients with TSE exerting mass effect with concomitant hydrocephalus.