The authors conducted a survey to evaluate differences in the understanding and management of shunt-dependent hydrocephalus among members of the American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgeons (ASPN).
Surveys were sent to all 204 active ASPN members in September 2014. One hundred thirty responses were received, representing a 64% response rate. Respondents were asked 13 multiple-choice and free-response questions regarding 4 fundamental problems encountered in shunted-hydrocephalus management: shunt malfunction, chronic cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) overdrainage, chronic headaches, and slit ventricle syndrome (SVS).
Respondents agreed that shunt malfunction occurs most often as the result of ventricular catheter obstruction. Despite contrary evidence in the literature, most respondents (66%) also believed that choroid plexus is the tissue most often found in obstructed proximal catheters. However, free-text responses revealed that the respondents’ understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of shunt obstruction was highly variable and included growth, migration, or adherence of choroid plexus, CSF debris, catheter position, inflammatory processes, and CSF overdrainage. Most respondents considered chronic CSF overdrainage to be a rare complication of shunting in their practice and reported wide variation in treatment protocols. Moreover, despite a lack of evidence in the literature, most respondents attributed chronic headaches in shunt patients to medical reasons (for example, migraines, tension). Accordingly, most respondents managed headaches with reassurance and/or referral to pain clinics. Lastly, there were variable opinions on the etiology of slit ventricle syndrome (SVS), which included early shunting, chronic overdrainage, and/or loss of brain compliance. Beyond shunt revision, respondents reported divergent SVS treatment preferences.
The survey shows that there is wide variability in the understanding and management of shunt-dependent hydrocephalus and its complications. Such discrepancies appear to be derived partly from inconsistent familiarity with existing literature but especially from a paucity of high-quality publications.