Shunt infection and malfunction in patients with myelomeningocele

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  • Department of Neurological Surgery, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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OBJECTIVE

Myelomeningocele (MMC) is frequently complicated by symptomatic hydrocephalus, necessitating early permanent CSF diversion and revision surgeries. Shunt infections are a common cause of shunt malfunction. This study aims to characterize long-term shunt-related outcomes of patients undergoing MMC closure.

METHODS

A total of 170 patients undergoing MMC closure between the years of 1995 and 2017 were identified from a retrospective review of a prospectively populated surgical database at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Patients who underwent MMC closure and required ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt insertion met criteria and were included in the primary study analysis. Analysis with a Fisher exact test was performed for categorical variables, and Mann-Whitney U-tests were utilized for numerical data.

RESULTS

Of the 158 total patients undergoing MMC closure and meeting inclusion criteria, 137 (87%) required VP shunt insertion. These 137 patients demonstrated a shunt revision rate of 21.1% per person-year and a shunt infection rate of 2.1% per person-year over a mean follow-up of 10.8 years. Patients had a mean of 3.4 ± 0.6 shunt surgeries prior to their first infection. Patients undergoing immediate shunt removal, external ventricular drain placement, or shunt replacement after clearing the infection had lower rates of subsequent infections than patients who initially were managed with shunt externalization (p < 0.001). Placement of a shunt at the time of MMC closure was not found to be a risk factor for infection. Of patients with initial shunt placement after the implementation of the Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network protocol in 2011, the authors’ institution has had a shunt infection rate of 4.2% per person-year and a revision rate of 35.7% per person-year.

CONCLUSIONS

This study describes long-term outcomes of shunted MMC patients and factors associated with shunt infections. Most patients underwent multiple revisions prior to the first shunt infection. Shunt externalization may be ineffective at clearing the infection and should be avoided in favor of early shunt removal and external ventricular drainage, followed by shunt replacement once infection is demonstrated to have cleared.

ABBREVIATIONS ETV = endoscopic third ventriculostomy; EVD = external ventricular drain; HCRN = Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network; MMC = myelomeningocele; VP = ventriculoperitoneal; WBC = white blood cell count.

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Michael M. McDowell: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA. mcdowellmm2@upmc.edu.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online February 26, 2021; DOI: 10.3171/2020.9.PEDS20313.

Disclosures Dr. Agarwal reports receiving royalties from Thieme Medical Publishers.

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