Outcomes of hydrocephalus secondary to congenital toxoplasmosis

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  • 1 Northwestern University and Lurie Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, Chicago;
  • 2 Section of Neurosurgery,
  • 6 Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science,
  • 7 Department of Public Health Sciences, and
  • 8 Pritzker School of Medicine, The University of Chicago;
  • 3 Department of Bioengineering, College of Engineering, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago;
  • 4 Department of Pediatrics, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago;
  • 5 NorthShore University Health System, Evanston; and
  • 9 Department of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases), Institute of Genomics, Genetics, and Systems Biology, Global Health Center, Toxoplasmosis Center, CHeSS, The College, The University of Chicago, Illinois
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Hydrocephalus occurs in children with congenital toxoplasmosis and can lead to severe disability. In these cases, the decision to intervene is often influenced by the expectation of neurological recovery. In this study, clinical responses to neurosurgical intervention in children with hydrocephalus secondary to congenital toxoplasmosis are characterized.


Sixty-five participants with hydrocephalus due to congenital Toxoplasma gondii infection were evaluated as part of the National Collaborative Chicago-based Congenital Toxoplasmosis Study, and their neuroradiographic findings were reviewed. Clinical outcomes were scored on the basis of cognition and motor skills through the use of IQ scores and Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) level. Outcomes were then analyzed in relation to approach to management, anatomy of hydrocephalus, and time from diagnosis of hydrocephalus to surgical intervention.


There was considerable variation in the outcomes of patients whose hydrocephalus was treated in early life, ranging from normal cognitive and motor function to profound developmental delay and functional limitation. Of the 65 participants included in the study, IQ and GMFCS level were available for 46 (70.8%). IQ and motor score were highly correlated (r = −0.82, p < 0.001). There were people with differing patterns of hydrocephalus or thickness of cortical mantle on initial presentation who had favorable outcomes. Time to neurosurgical intervention data were available for 31 patients who underwent ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt placement. Delayed shunt placement beyond 25 days after diagnosis of hydrocephalus was associated with greater cognitive impairment (p = 0.02). Motor impairment also appeared to be associated with shunt placement beyond 25 days but the difference did not achieve statistical significance (p = 0.13). Among those with shunt placement within 25 days after diagnosis (n = 19), the mean GMFCS level was 1.9 ± 1.6 (range 1–5). Five (29.4%) of 17 of these patients were too disabled to participate in formal cognitive testing, after excluding 2 patients with visual difficulties or language barriers that precluded IQ testing. Of the patients who had VP shunt placement 25 or more days after diagnosis (n = 12), the mean GMFCS level was 2.7 ± 1.4 (range 1–4). Of these, 1 could not participate in IQ testing due to severe visual difficulties and 8 (72.7%) of the remaining 11 due to cognitive disability.


VP shunt placement in patients with hydrocephalus caused by congenital toxoplasmosis can contribute to favorable clinical outcomes, even in cases with severe hydrocephalus on neuroimaging. Shunt placement within 25 days of diagnosis was statistically associated with more favorable cognitive outcomes. Motor function appeared to follow the same pattern although it did not achieve statistical significance.

ABBREVIATIONS ETV = endoscopic third ventriculostomy; GMFCS = Gross Motor Function Classification System; NCCCTS = National Collaborative Chicago-based Congenital Toxoplasmosis Study; VP = ventriculoperitoneal; WISC-III = Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–III; WPPSI-R = Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence–Revised.

Supplementary Materials

    • Table S1 (PDF 548 KB)

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Rima McLeod: The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. rmcleod@uchicago.edu.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online September 6, 2019; DOI: 10.3171/2019.6.PEDS18684.

D.M. and D.F. contributed equally to this work.

Disclosures Dr. Penn is a consultant for Arkis Biosciences, Inc., and receives options on shares.


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