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Paul D. Chumas, James M. Drake, Marc R. Del Bigio, Marcia Da Silva and Ursula I. Tuor

✓ The metabolic changes in neonatal hydrocephalus that lead to permanent brain injury are not clearly defined, nor is the extent to which these changes can be prevented by a cerebrospinal fluid shunt. To clarify these processes, cerebral glucose utilization was examined using [14C]2-deoxyglucose autoradiography in 1-month-old kittens, kaolin-induced hydrocephalic littermates, and hydrocephalic kittens in which a ventriculoperitoneal shunt had been inserted 10 days after kaolin injection. The hydrocephalic kittens showed thinning of the cerebral mantle and an anterior-to-posterior gradient of enlargement of the ventricular system, with a ventricle:brain ratio of 24% for the frontal and 35% for the occipital horns compared with control (< 0.5%) and shunted (< 5%) animals. White matter in hydrocephalic animals was edematous. Myelination was delayed in the periventricular region and in the cores of the cerebral gyri.

Glucose utilization in hydrocephalic and shunted animals was unchanged from control animals in all gray-matter regions examined. However, in hydrocephalic animals, the frontal white matter exhibited a significant increase in glucose utilization (25 µmol • 100 gm−1 • min−1) in the cores of gyri compared with normal surrounding white-matter values (14.8 µmol • 100 gm−1 • min−1). Very low values (mean 4 µmol • 100 gm−1 • min−1) were found in areas corresponding to severe white-matter edema, and these areas were surrounded by a halo of increased activity (24 µmol • 100 gm−1 • min−1). In contrast, cytochrome oxidase activity in white matter was homogeneous. Shunting resulted in restoration of the cerebral mantle thickness, a return to normal levels of glucose utilization in the white matter, and an improvement in myelination.

It is suggested that the areas of increased glucose utilization seen in the white matter represent anaerobic glycolysis which, if untreated, progresses to infarction. The pattern of this increased glucose utilization matches that of expected myelination and, during this period of high energy demand, white matter may be susceptible to the hypoperfusion associated with hydrocephalus.

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Paul D. Chumas, Marc R. Del Bigio, James M. Drake and Ursula I. Tuor

✓ It has recently been reported that pretreatment with a single dose of dexamethasone (0.1 mg/kg) 24 hours before hypoxia in 7-day-old rat pups is protective against an hypoxic-ischemic insult (unilateral carotid artery occlusion followed by 3 hours of hypoxia in 8% O2). The authors now examine whether pretreatment 6 hours before insult is equally effective and compare other agents potentially suitable for prophylaxis in neonatal hypoxia-ischemia, including the calcium antagonists flunarizine (30 mg/kg pretreatment), nimodipine (0.5 mg/kg pretreatment), and the 21-aminosteroid U-74389F (10 mg/kg pre- and posttreatment). For each active agent, there was also a vehicle-treated control group.

Comparison of the mean area of ipsilateral infarction on brain coronal sections showed that there was no statistically significant difference between the various control groups (mean area of infarction 66% ± 4%). Pretreatment with dexamethasone 6 hours prior to hypoxia offered complete protection with no infarction. A beneficial effect was seen following pretreatment with flunarizine (mean area of infarction 33.6% ± 7.8%), although this degree of damage was still significantly different from that seen with dexamethasone pretreatment. Pretreatment with nimodipine or U-74389F offered no protection (mean area of infarction 77.5% ± 4% and 59% ± 10%, respectively). Unlike findings in adult animals and clinical studies, the current studies show that dexamethasone may have a role in the treatment of neonatal hypoxia-ischemia and deserves reappraisal.

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Paul D. Chumas, Derek C. Armstrong, James M. Drake, Abhaya V. Kulkarni, Harold J. Hoffman, Robin P. Humphreys, James T. Rutka and E. Bruce Hendrick

✓ Although the development of tonsillar herniation (acquired Chiari malformation) in association with lumboperitoneal (LP) shunting is well recognized, it has previously been considered rare. In order to ascertain the incidence of this complication after LP shunting, the authors undertook a retrospective study of all patients in whom this form of shunt had been inserted between 1974 and 1991 at The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. In the 143 patients, the mean age at insertion was 3.3 years and the indications for shunt placement were hydrocephalus (81%), pseudotumor cerebri (7%), cerebrospinal fluid fistula (6%), and posterior fossa pseudomeningocele (6%). The mean follow-up period was 5.7 years, during which time there was one shunt-related death due to unsuspected tonsillar herniation. Five other patients developed symptomatic tonsillar herniation treated by suboccipital decompression.

Review of all computerized tomography (CT) scans not degraded by artifact showed evidence of excess soft tissue at the level of the foramen magnum in 38 (70%) of 54 patients so studied. In order to confirm that this CT finding represented hindbrain herniation, sagittal and axial magnetic resonance (MR) images were obtained for 17 asymptomatic patients and revealed tonsillar herniation (range 2 to 21 mm) in 12 (70.6%). In addition, some of these asymptomatic patients had evidence of uncal herniation and mesencephalic distortion. Similarities and distinctions are drawn between the morphological changes occurring after LP shunting and those seen in association with the Chiari I and II malformations. Although less than 5% of this study population required treatment for tonsillar herniation, the incidence of this complication was high in asymptomatic patients; MR imaging surveillance for patients with LP shunts is therefore recommended.