The shunt protocol developed by the Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network (HCRN) was shown to significantly reduce shunt infections in children. However, its effectiveness had not been validated in a non-HCRN, small- to medium-volume pediatric neurosurgery center. The present study evaluated whether the 9-step Calgary Shunt Protocol, closely adapted from the HCRN shunt protocol, reduced shunt infections in children.
The Calgary Shunt Protocol was prospectively applied at Alberta Children’s Hospital from May 23, 2013, to all children undergoing any shunt procedure. The control cohort consisted of children undergoing shunt surgery between January 1, 2009, and the implementation of the Calgary Shunt Protocol. The primary outcome was the strict HCRN definition of shunt infection. Univariate analyses of the protocol, individual elements within, and known confounders were performed using Student t-test for measured variables and chi-square tests for categorical variables. Multivariable logistic regression was performed using stepwise analysis.
Two-hundred sixty-eight shunt procedures were performed. The median age of patients was 14 months (IQR 3–61), and 148 (55.2%) were male. There was a significant absolute risk reduction of 10.0% (95% CI 3.9%–15.9%) in shunt infections (12.7% vs 2.7%, p = 0.004) after implementation of the Calgary Shunt Protocol. In univariate analyses, chlorhexidine was associated with fewer shunt infections than iodine-based skin preparation solution (4.1% vs 12.3%, p = 0.02). Waiting ≥ 20 minutes between receiving preoperative antibiotics and skin incision was also associated with a reduction in shunt infection (4.5% vs 14.2%, p = 0.007). In the multivariable analysis, only the overall protocol independently reduced shunt infections (OR 0.19 [95% CI 0.06–0.67], p = 0.009), while age, etiology, procedure type, ventricular catheter type, skin preparation solution, and time from preoperative antibiotics to skin incision were not significant.
This study externally validates the published HCRN protocol for reducing shunt infection in an independent, non-HCRN, and small- to medium-volume pediatric neurosurgery setting. Implementation of the Calgary Shunt Protocol independently reduced shunt infection risk. Chlorhexidine skin preparation and waiting ≥ 20 minutes between administration of preoperative antibiotic and skin incision may have contributed to the protocol’s quality improvement success.