Ventriculoatrial (VA) shunting is rarely used for patients with normal-pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), likely due to surgeon technical preference and case reports indicating cardiopulmonary complications. However, these complications have typically been limited to adults in whom VA shunts had been placed when they were children. Few studies have directly compared VA shunting to ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunting in cases of NPH.
The authors retrospectively analyzed all NPH patients treated by a single surgeon at their center from January 2002 through December 2011. Thirty patients were treated with VA shunts (14 male) and 157 with VP shunts (86 male). The patients' mean age (± SD) at surgery was 73.7 ± 9.4 years for VA shunting and 76.0 ± 8.2 years for VP shunting; the median durations of follow-up were 42.0 months (IQR 19.2–63.6 months) and 34.2 months (IQR 15.8–67.5), respectively. Statistical analysis was performed using chi-square tests and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests.
Perioperative and postoperative complications for VA and VP shunting cohorts, respectively, included distal revision (2.7% vs 6.6%, p = 0.45), proximal revision (2.7% vs 2.5%, p = 0.97), and postoperative seizure (2.7% vs 1.5%, p = 0.62). Shunt drainage–related subdural hematomas/hygromas developed in 8.1%/27.0% of VA shunt–treated patients versus 6.6%/26.4% of VP shunt–treated patients (p = 0.76/0.98) and were nearly always successfully managed with programmable-valve adjustment. Symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage (1.5%) and shunt infection (2.0%) were only observed in those who underwent VP shunting. Of note, no cardiovascular complications were observed in any patient, and there were no cases of distal occlusion of the VA shunt.
The authors found no significant differences in complication rates between VA and VP shunting, and VA shunting was not associated with any cardiopulmonary complications. Thus, in the authors' experience, VA shunting is at least as safe as VP shunting for treating NPH.