Hospital Costs Associated With Shunt Infections in Patients Receiving Antibiotic-Impregnated Shunt Catheters Versus Standard Shunt Catheters

Neurosurgery 66:284-289, 2010 DOI: 10.1227/01.NEU.0000363405.12584.4D

BACKGROUND:The average hospital cost for shunt infection treatment is $50 000, making it the most financially costly implant-related infection in the United States. We set out to determine whether introduction of antibiotic-impregnated shunts (AISs) in our practice has decreased the incidence of shunt infection or decreased infection-related hospital costs at our institution.

METHODS: Clinical and hospital billing records of pediatric patients undergoing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt insertion at a single institution from April 2001 to December 2006 were retrospectively reviewed. Eighteen months before October 2002, all CSF shunts included standard, non-AIS catheters. During the 4 years after October 2002, all CSF shunts included AIS catheters. Patients were followed at least 18 months after surgery.

RESULTS: A total of 406 pediatric patients underwent 608 shunt placement procedures (400 AISs, 208 non-AISs). Of patients with non-AIS catheters, 25 (12%) experienced shunt infection, whereas only 13 patients (3.2%) with AIS catheters experienced shunt infection during follow-up (P < .001). The total hospital cost to treat 25 non-AIS shunt infections over the first 18 months was $1,234,928. The total hospital cost to treat 13 AIS shunt infections over the past 4 years was $606,328. The mean hospital cost per shunt infection was similar for infected AIS and non-AIS catheters ($46 640 vs. $49 397). However, the infection- related hospital cost per 100 patients shunted was markedly lower in the AIS cohort than in the non-AIS cohort ($151 582 vs. $593 715).

DISCUSSION: The introduction of AIS catheters in our institutional practice reduced the incidence of shunt infection and resulted in significant hospital cost savings. AIS systems are efficient and cost-effective instruments to prevent perioperative colonization of CSF shunt components.