Patients with cryptococcal meningitis often develop symptomatic intracranial hypertension. The need for permanent CSF diversion in these cases remains unclear.
Cases of cryptococcal meningitis over a 5-year period were reviewed from a single, large teaching hospital. Sources of identification included ICD-9 codes, operative logs, and microscopy laboratory records.
Fifty cases of cryptococcal meningitis were identified. Ninety-eight percent (49/50) of patients were HIV positive. Opening pressure on initial lumbar puncture diagnosing cryptococcal meningitis was elevated (> 25 cm H2O) in 33 cases and normal (≤ 25 cm H2O) in 17 cases. Thirty-eight patients ultimately developed elevated opening pressure over a follow-up period ranging from weeks to years.
Serial lumbar punctures for relief of intracranial hypertension were performed in 29 cases. Thirteen of these patients ultimately had shunting procedures performed after failing to improve clinically. Two factors were significantly associated with the need for shunting: patients undergoing shunt placement were more likely to be women (5/13 vs 0/16; p = 0.01) and to have a pattern of increasing CSF cryptococcal antigen (10/13 vs 3/16 cases; p = 0.003). All patients re-presenting with mycological relapse either underwent or were offered shunt placement.
Neurosurgeons are often asked to consider CSF diversion in cases of cryptococcal meningitis complicated by intracranial hypertension. Most patients do well with serial lumbar punctures combined with antifungal therapy. When required, shunting generally provided sustained relief from intracranial hypertension symptoms. Ventriculoperitoneal shunts are the favored method of diversion. To the authors’ knowledge, the present study is the largest series on diversionary shunts in primarily HIV-positive patients with this problem.