Object. The authors undertook a study to evaluate the effectiveness of endoscopic third ventriculostomy in the management of hydrocephalus before and after surgical intervention for posterior fossa tumors in children.
Methods. Between October 1, 1993, and December 31, 1997, a total of 206 consecutive children with posterior fossa tumors underwent surgery at Hôpital Necker—Enfants Malades in Paris. Excluded were 10 patients in whom shunts had been placed at the referring hospital. The medical records and neuroimaging studies of the remaining 196 patients were reviewed and categorized into three groups: Group A, 67 patients with hydrocephalus present on admission in whom endoscopic third ventriculostomy was performed prior to tumor removal; Group B, 82 patients with hydrocephalus who did not undergo preliminary third ventriculostomy but instead received conventional treatment; and Group C, 47 patients in whom no ventricular dilation was present on admission.
There were no significant differences between patients in Group A or B with respect to the following variables: age at presentation, evidence of metastatic disease, extent of tumor resection, or follow-up duration. In patients in Group A, however, more severe hydrocephalus was demonstrated (p < 0.01); the patients in Group C were in this respect different from those in the other two groups.
Ultimately, there were only four patients (6%) in Group A compared with 22 patients (26.8%) in Group B (p = 0.001) in whom progressive hydrocephalus required treatment following removal of the posterior fossa tumor. Sixteen patients (20%) in Group B underwent insertion of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt, which is similar to the incidence reported in the literature and significantly different from that demonstrated in Group A (p < 0.016). The other six patients (7.3%) were treated by endoscopic third ventriculostomy after tumor resection. In Group C, two patients (4.3%) with postoperative hydrocephalus underwent endoscopic third ventriculostomy.
In three patients who required placement of CSF shunts several episodes of shunt malfunction occurred that were ultimately managed by endoscopic third ventriculostomy and definitive removal of the shunt. There were no deaths; however, there were four cases of transient morbidity associated with third ventriculostomy.
Conclusions. Third ventriculostomy is feasible even in the presence of posterior fossa tumors (including brainstem tumors). When performed prior to posterior fossa surgery, it significantly reduces the incidence of postoperative hydrocephalus. The procedure provides a valid alternative to placement of a permanent shunt in cases in which hydrocephalus develops following posterior fossa surgery, and it may negate the need for the shunt in cases in which the shunt malfunctions. Furthermore, in patients in whom CSF has caused spread of the tumor at presentation, third ventriculostomy allows chemotherapy to be undertaken prior to tumor excision by controlling hydrocephalus.
Although the authors acknowledge that the routine application of third ventriculostomy in selected patients results in a proportion of patients undergoing an “unnecessary” procedure, they believe that because patients' postoperative courses are less complicated and because the incidence of morbidity is low and the success rate is high in those patients with severe hydrocephalus that further investigation of this protocol is warranted.