Treating pediatric hydrocephalus in Australia: a 3-year hospital-based cost analysis and comparison with other studies

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The aim of this study was to quantify the financial costs of surgical intervention in patients with newly diagnosed hydrocephalus and patients with treatment failure or complications of previously treated hydrocephalus between 2007 and 2009 at the Children's Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, Australia.


This was a retrospective study of patients who underwent shunt insertion, shunt revision, treatment of an infected shunt, and endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) between 2007 and 2009. Actual hospital costs associated with each inpatient stay were obtained from the accounting office of Children's Hospital at Westmead. Patients with hydrocephalus secondary to trauma, malignancy, or other complex conditions (except myelomeningocele) were excluded.


Hydrocephalus-related procedures comprised approximately one-third of neurosurgical procedures performed each year. From 2007 to 2009, there were 192 admissions during which 300 procedures were performed for 162 patients. The total cost was $4.78 million (Australian) with an average cost of $1.59 million per year. The cost per admission for shunt insertion and ETV were similar ($13,905 vs $14,128, respectively). The average cost per admission for shunt revision was $9,753. However, shunt infection was associated with 40% of total costs, averaging $83,649 per admission. Management of patients with myelomeningocele undergoing insertion of shunt procedures in the same admission accounted for an average cost of $50,186.


Hydrocephalus is a chronic condition that imposes a significant and growing economic burden upon the Australian hospital system. Seventy-five percent of hydrocephalus-related hospital expenditure is used to surgically treat patients for complications or failure of previously treated hydrocephalus. Further research into the economic impact of pediatric hydrocephalus on the Australian health care system and concerted research efforts in the area of effective long-term surgical treatment and complication minimization are essential.

Abbreviation used in this paper:ETV = endoscopic third ventriculostomy.

Article Information

Address correspondence to: Alan Chuong Q. Pham, M.B.B.S., 95/20-34 Albert Road, Strathfield, New South Wales 2135, Australia. email:

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online February 8, 2013; DOI: 10.3171/2013.1.PEDS12233.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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