CSF shunts are the most common procedures performed in the pediatric neurosurgical population. Despite attempts in multiple studies, a superior shunt valve has never been shown. Because of this, the authors aim was to examine the impact of shunt valve standardization at their institution to determine if there is a difference in surgical cost, operative time, or short-term postoperative shunt failure.
A retrospective analysis at the authors’ institution was performed for all new CSF diversion shunts, as well as shunt revisions requiring a new valve, or a new valve and at least a new proximal or distal catheter over a 1-year period (January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016). After a period of transition, neurosurgeons were encouraged to use only one type of fixed-differential-pressure valve and one type of programmable valve when performing shunt surgeries. These patients who underwent “standardized” shunt surgery over a 1-year period (January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018) were then compared to patients in the prestandardization epoch. All patients were followed for a 12-month period after surgery. Demographic information, surgical cost, operative time, and postoperative shunt failure data were collected in all patients in the study.
The authors analyzed 87 shunt surgeries in patients prior to standardization and 94 shunt surgeries in patients after standardization. The rate of violation of the standardized shunt valve policy after implementation was 5.3% (5 of 94 procedures). When comparing the prestandardization group to those who received the standardized valve, operative costs were less ($1821.04 vs $1333.75, p = 0.0034). There was no difference in operative times between groups (78 minutes vs 81 minutes, p = 0.5501). There was no difference in total number of shunt failures between the two groups at 12 months after surgery (p = 0.0859). The rate of postoperative infection was consistent with the literature at 8%.
In accordance with quality improvement principles, the reduction of unexplained clinical variance invariably leads to a decrease in cost and, more importantly, increased value. In this study, the implementation of a standardized shunt valve decreased operative cost. There were no differences in postoperative shunt failures at 12 months after surgery and no differences in length of surgery. Standardizing shunt valves in the treatment of pediatric hydrocephalus seems to be cost-effective and safe.