The majority of children with myelomeningocele undergo implantation of CSF shunts. The efficacy of adding surveillance imaging to clinical evaluation during routine follow-up as a means to minimize the hazard associated with future shunt failure has not been thoroughly studied.
A total of 300 spina bifida clinic visits during the calendar years between 2012 and 2016 were selected for this study (defined as the index clinic visit). Each index visit was preceded by a 6-month period during which no shunt evaluation of any kind was performed. At the index clinic visit, all patients were evaluated by a neurosurgeon. Seventy-four patients underwent previously scheduled surveillance CT or shunt series scans in addition to clinical evaluation (surveillance imaging group), and 226 patients did not undergo surveillance imaging (clinical evaluation group). Subsequent unexpected events, defined as emergency department visits, caregiver-requested clinic visits, and shunt revision surgeries were reviewed. The timing and likelihood of an unexpected event in each of the 2 groups were compared using Cox proportional hazard survival analysis. The rate of shunt revision surgery in the follow-up period as well as the associated outcomes and rate of complications were analyzed.
The clinical characteristics of the 2 groups were similar. In the clinical evaluation group, 4 of 226 (1.8%) patients underwent shunt revision based on clinical findings during the index visit, compared to 8 of 74 (10.8%) patients in the surveillance imaging group who underwent shunt revision based on clinical and imaging findings at that visit (p < 0.05). In the subsequent follow-up period, there were 74 unexpected events resulting in 10 shunt revisions in the clinical evaluation group, for an event rate of 33% and operation rate of 13.5%. In the surveillance imaging group there were 23 unexpected events resulting in 2 shunt revisions, for an event rate of 34.8% and an operation rate of 8.7%; neither difference was statistically significant. The complication rate for shunt revision surgery was also not different between the groups.
Obtaining predecided, routine surveillance imaging in children with myelomeningocele and shunted hydrocephalus resulted in more shunt revisions in asymptomatic patients. For patients who had negative results on surveillance imaging, the rate of shunt revision in the follow-up period was not significantly decreased compared to patients who underwent clinical examination only at the index visit.