The pathophysiology of chronic noncommunicating hydrocephalus: lessons from continuous intracranial pressure monitoring and ventricular infusion testing

J Neurosurg 129:220–233, 2018

The pathophysiology of chronic noncommunicating hydrocephalus (ncHC) is poorly understood. This present study explored whether lessons about the pathophysiology of this clinical entity might be retrieved from results of overnight monitoring of pulsatile and static intracranial pressure (ICP) and ventricular infusion testing.

METHODS The study cohort included adult patients (> 20 years of age) with chronic ncHC due to aqueductal stenosis in whom symptoms had lasted a minimum of 6 months. A reference cohort consisted of age- and sex-matched patients managed for communicating HC (cHC). Information about symptoms and clinical improvement following surgery was retrieved from a quality register, and results of overnight ICP recordings and ventricular infusion testing were retrieved from the hospital ICP database.

RESULTS The cohort with ncHC consisted of 61 patients of whom 6 (10%) were managed conservatively, 34 (56%) by endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV), and 21 (34%) using ETV and subsequent shunt surgery. In patients responding to surgery, pulsatile ICP (mean ICP wave amplitude) was significantly increased to a similar magnitude in patients with ncHC and the reference cohort (cHC). Furthermore, intracranial compliance (ICC) was reduced in clinical responders. The results of ventricular infusion testing provided evidence that patients responding to ETV have impaired ventricular CSF absorption, while those requiring shunt placement after ETV present with impaired CSF absorption both in the intraventricular and extraventricular compartments.

CONCLUSIONS The study may provide some lessons about the pathophysiology of chronic ncHC. First, increased pulsatile ICP and impaired ICC characterize patients with chronic ncHC who respond clinically to CSF diversion surgery, even though static ICP is not increased. Second, in patients responding clinically to ETV, impaired ventricular CSF absorption may be a key factor. Patients requiring shunt placement for clinical response appear to have both intraventricular and extraventricular CSF absorption failure. A subgroup of patients with ncHC due to aqueductal stenosis has normal ventricular CSF absorption and normal ICC and may not be in need of surgical CSF diversion.