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Shenandoah Robinson, Bruce A. Kaufman, John A. Jane Jr. and Tae Sung Park

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Thomas Pennell, Juneyoung L. Yi, Bruce A. Kaufman and Satish Krishnamurthy


Mechanical failure—which is the primary cause of CSF shunt malfunction—is not readily diagnosed, and the specific reasons for mechanical failure are not easily discerned. Prior attempts to measure CSF flow noninvasively have lacked the ability to either quantitatively or qualitatively obtain data. To address these needs, this preliminary study evaluates an ultrasonic transit time flow sensor in pediatric and adult patients with external ventricular drains (EVDs). One goal was to confirm the stated accuracy of the sensor in a clinical setting. A second goal was to observe the sensor’s capability to record real-time continuous CSF flow. The final goal was to observe recordings during instances of flow blockage or lack of flow in order to determine the sensor’s ability to identify these changes.


A total of 5 pediatric and 11 adult patients who had received EVDs for the treatment of hydrocephalus were studied in a hospital setting. The primary EVD was connected to a secondary study EVD that contained a fluid-filled pressure transducer and an in-line transit time flow sensor. Comparisons were made between the weight of the drainage bag and the flow measured via the sensor in order to confirm its accuracy. Data from the pressure transducer and the flow sensor were recorded continuously at 100 Hz for a period of 24 hours by a data acquisition system, while the hourly CSF flow into the drip chamber was recorded manually. Changes in the patient’s neurological status and their time points were noted.


The flow sensor demonstrated a proven accuracy of ± 15% or ± 2 ml/hr. The flow sensor allowed real-time continuous flow waveform data recordings. Dynamic analysis of CSF flow waveforms allowed the calculation of the pressure-volume index. Lastly, the sensor was able to diagnose a blocked catheter and distinguish between the blockage and lack of flow.


The Transonic flow sensor accurately measures CSF output within ± 15% or ± 2 ml/hr, diagnoses the blockage or lack of flow, and records real-time continuous flow data in patients with EVDs. Calculations of a wide variety of diagnostic parameters can be made from the waveform recordings, including resistance and compliance of the ventricular catheters and the compliance of the brain. The sensor’s clinical applications may be of particular importance to the noninvasive diagnosis of shunt malfunctions with the development of an implantable device.

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Sean M. Lew, Anne E. Matthews, Bruce A. Kaufman and Marike Zwienenberg

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Peter W. Carmel, A. Leland Albright, P. David Adelson, Alexa Canady, Peter Black, William Boydston, David Kneirim, Bruce Kaufman, Marion Walker, Mark Luciano, Ian F. Pollack, Kim Manwaring, M. Peter Heilbrun, I. Richmond Abbott and Harold Rekate

Shunt systems with differential pressure valves are prone to the complications of overdrainage. A programmable valve permits adjustment of the opening pressure of the valve. In this paper the authors report the incidence of subdural fluid collections in a randomized trial of programmable compared with conventional valves, and they describe methodologies used in management of this complication.

A multiinstitutional, prospective, randomized trial of the Codman Hakim programmable valve and conventional fixed-pressure valves was undertaken. Two classes were defined: “new” and “replacement” valves. Randomization of the type of valve in each group was performed at each study site. Clinical and radiological studies were required at fixed intervals over a 104-week period. All complications were reported. The experimental valves were required to be reprogrammed after magnetic resonance imaging studies, but all other decisions regarding pressure setting were left to each investigator.

Three hundred seventy-seven patients were randomized; 194 were treated with a programmable valve and 183 with a fixed-pressure valve. The two groups were statistically similar in demographic composition, as were the “new” and “replacement” categories. The investigators made 540 valve pressure changes (five per patient; range one-41 changes). More than half of the reprogramming adjustments were made in the first 3 months postplacement; 70% were made within 6 months. More than half of all reprogramming adjustments were required in a group of 30 patients.

Four treatment modalities were observed: 1) 30% of the fluid collections resolved spontaneously (25% in the patients with programmable valves and 36.3% in those with conventional valves) and were largely found to be hygromas in infants and children; 2) four subdural fluid collections were unresolved and under observation; 3) the subdural hematoma was drained and the shunt removed (in 8.3% of patients with the programmable valve and 36.3% of those with the control valve); 4) the pressure of programmable valve was raised in 58% of patients (seven of 12), and this increase in opening pressure was a feature used by investigators to affect treatment.

There was no significant difference in the incidence of subdural fluid collections between the programmable and fixed-pressure valve treatment groups. The programmable feature provided a considerable advantage in treatment when subdural collections occurred.