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Paul Klimo Jr., Clinton J. Thompson, Brian T. Ragel, and Frederick A. Boop

Object

Infection is a serious and costly complication of CSF shunt implantation. Antibiotic-impregnated shunts (AISs) were introduced almost 10 years ago, but reports on their ability to decrease the infection rate have been mixed. The authors conducted a meta-analysis assessing the extent to which AISs reduce the rate of shunt infection compared with standard shunts (SSs). They also examined cost savings to determine the degree to which AISs could decrease infection-related hospital expenses.

Methods

After conducting a comprehensive search of multiple electronic databases to identify studies that evaluated shunt type and used shunt-related infection as the primary outcome, 2 reviewers independently evaluated study quality based on preestablished criteria and extracted data. A random effects meta-analysis of eligible studies was then performed. For studies that demonstrated a positive effect with the AIS, a cost-savings analysis was conducted by calculating the number of implanted shunts needed to prevent a shunt infection, assuming an additional cost of $400 per AIS system and $50,000 to treat a shunt infection.

Results

Thirteen prospective or retrospective controlled cohort studies provided Level III evidence, and 1 prospective randomized study provided Level II evidence. “Shunt infection” was generally uniformly defined among the studies, but the availability and detail of baseline demographic data for the control (SS) and treatment (AIS) groups within each study were variable. There were 390 infections (7.0%) in 5582 procedures in the control group and 120 infections (3.5%) in 3467 operations in the treatment group, yielding a pooled absolute risk reduction (ARR) and relative risk reduction (RRR) of 3.5% and 50%, respectively. The meta-analysis revealed the AIS to be statistically protective in all studies (risk ratio = 0.46, 95% CI 0.33–0.63) and in single-institution studies (risk ratio = 0.38, 95% CI 0.25–0.58). There was some evidence of heterogeneity when studies were analyzed together (p = 0.093), but this heterogeneity was reduced when the studies were analyzed separately as single institution versus multiinstitutional (p > 0.10 for both groups). Seven studies showed the AIS to be statistically protective against infection with an ARR and RRR ranging from 1.7% to 14.2% and 34% to 84%, respectively. The number of shunt operations requiring an AIS to prevent 1 shunt infection ranged from 7 to 59. Assuming 200 shunt cases per year, the annual savings for converting from SSs to AISs ranged from $90,000 to over $1.3 million.

Conclusions

While the authors recognized the inherent limitations in the quality and quantity of data available in the literature, this meta-analysis revealed a significant protective benefit with AIS systems, which translated into substantial hospital savings despite the added cost of an AIS. Using previously developed guidelines on treatment, the authors strongly encourage the use of AISs in all patients with hydrocephalus who require a shunt, particularly those at greatest risk for infection.

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Paul Klimo Jr., Brian T. Ragel, William H. Scott Jr., and Randall McCafferty

Object

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is the current US military conflict against terrorist elements in Afghanistan. Deepening US involvement in this conflict and increasing coalition casualties prompted the establishment of continuous neurosurgical assets at Craig Joint Theater Hospital (CJTH) at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in September 2007. As part of the military's medical mission, children with battlefield-related injuries and, on a selective case-by-case basis, non–war-related pathological conditions are treated at CJTH.

Methods

A prospectively maintained record was created in which all rotating neurosurgeons at CJTH recorded their personal procedures. From this record, the authors were able to extract all cases involving patients 18 years of age or younger. Variables recorded included: age, sex, and category of patient (for example, local national, enemy combatant), date, indication and description of the neurosurgical procedure, mechanism of injury, and in-hospital morbidity and mortality data.

Results

From September 2007 to October 2009, 296 neurosurgical procedures were performed at CJTH. Fifty-seven (19%) were performed in 43 pediatric patients (16 girls and 27 boys) with an average age of 7.5 years (range 11 days–18 years). Thirty-one of the 57 procedures (54%) were for battlefield-related trauma and 26 for humanitarian reasons (46%). The vast majority of cases were cranial (49/57, 86%) compared with spinal (7/54, 13%), with one peripheral nerve case. Craniotomies or craniectomies for penetrating brain injuries were the most common procedures. There were 5 complications (11.6%) and 4 in-hospital deaths (9.3%).

Conclusions

As in previous military conflicts, children are the unfortunate victims of the current Afghanistan campaign. Extremely limited pediatric neurosurgical service and care is rendered under challenging conditions and Air Force neurosurgeons provide valuable, life-saving pediatric treatment for both war-related injuries and humanitarian needs. As the conflict in Afghanistan continues, military neurosurgeons will continue to care for injured children to the best of their abilities.