Late failure is a well-documented complication of cerebrospinal fluid shunt placement and, less commonly, endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV). However, standards regarding the frequency of clinical and radiological follow-up in these patients have not been defined. Here, the authors report on their survey of surgeons at sites for the Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network (HCRN) or its implementation/quality improvement arm (HCRNq) to provide a cross-sectional overview of practice patterns.
A 24-question survey was developed using the Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) platform and was distributed to the 138 pediatric neurosurgeons across 39 centers who participate in the HCRN or HCRNq. Survey questions were organized into three sections: 1) Demographics (5 questions), 2) Shunt Surveillance (12 questions), and 3) ETV Surveillance (7 questions).
A total of 122 complete responses were obtained, for an overall response rate of 88%. The majority of respondents have been in practice for more than 10 years (58%) and exclusively treat pediatric patients (79%). Most respondents consider hydrocephalus to have stabilized 1 month (21%) or 3 months (39%) after shunt surgery, and once stability is achieved, 72% then ask patients to return for routine clinical follow-up annually. Overall, 83% recommend lifelong clinical follow-up after shunt placement. Additionally, 75% obtain routine imaging studies in asymptomatic patients, although the specific imaging modality and frequency of imaging vary. The management of an asymptomatic increase in ventricle size or an asymptomatic catheter fracture also varies widely. Many respondents believe that hydrocephalus takes longer to stabilize after ETV than after shunt placement, reporting that they consider hydrocephalus to have stabilized 3 (28%), 6 (33%), or 12 (28%) months after an ETV. Although 68% of respondents have patients return annually for routine clinical follow-up after an ETV, only 56% recommend lifelong follow-up. The proportion of respondents who perform lifelong follow-up increases with greater practice experience (p = 0.01). Overall, 67% of respondents obtain routine imaging studies in asymptomatic patients after an ETV, with “rapid” MRI the study of choice for most respondents.
While there is a general consensus among pediatric neurosurgeons across North America that hydrocephalus patients should have long-term follow-up after shunt placement, radiological surveillance is characterized by considerable variety, as is follow-up after an ETV. Future work should focus on evaluating whether any one of these surveillance protocols is associated with improved outcomes.