The use of abdominal binders to treat over-shunting headaches

Clinical article

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  • 1 Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery and
  • 3 Perot Family Center for the Care of Brain & Nerve Injuries, Children's Medical Center Dallas; and
  • 2 Department of Neurosurgery, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, Texas
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Object

Headaches are common in children with shunts. Headaches associated with over-shunting are typically intermittent and tend to occur later in the day. Lying down frequently makes the headaches better. This paper examines the efficacy of using abdominal binders to treat over-shunting headaches.

Methods

Over an 18-year period, the senior author monitored 1027 children with shunts. Office charts of 483 active patients were retrospectively reviewed to identify those children with headaches and, in particular, those children who were thought to have headaches as a result of over-shunting. Abdominal binders were frequently used to treat children with presumed over-shunting headaches, and these data were analyzed.

Results

Of the 483 patients undergoing chart review, 258 (53.4%) had headache. A clinical diagnosis of over-shunting was made in 103 patients (21.3% overall; 39.9% of patients with headache). In 14 patients, the headaches were very mild (1–2 on a 5-point scale) and infrequent (1 or 2 per month), and treatment with an abdominal binder was not thought indicated. Eighty-nine patients were treated with a binder, but 19 were excluded from this retrospective study for noncompliance, interruption of the binder trial, or lack of follow-up.

The remaining 70 pediatric patients, who were diagnosed with over-shunting headaches and were treated with abdominal binders, were the subjects of a more detailed retrospective study. Significant headache improvement was observed in 85.8% of patients. On average, the patients wore the binders for approximately 1 month, and headache relief usually persisted even after the binders were discontinued. However, the headaches eventually did recur in many of the patients more than a year later. In these patients, reuse of the abdominal binder was successful in relieving headaches in 78.9%.

Conclusions

The abdominal binder is an effective, noninvasive therapy to control over-shunting headaches in most children. This treatment should be tried before any surgery is considered. It is suggested that the abdominal binder may modulate abnormally increased intracranial pulse pressures associated with over-shunting. Interactions with the cerebrovascular bed are suspected to account for persistent headache relief after the binder is discontinued.

Abbreviation used in this paper:ICP = intracranial pressure.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Frederick H. Sklar, M.D., Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Children's Medical Center Dallas, 1935 Medical District Drive, Dallas, Texas 75235. email: fsklar@nsfc.us.

Please include this information when citing this paper: DOI: 10.3171/2012.2.PEDS11146.

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