There are no randomized studies comparing the efficacy of different antibiotic regimens for the treatment of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt infections, and in the studies that have been reported, efficacy data are limited. The aim of this study was therefore to report the authors' experience using a specific protocol for the management of shunt infections in children. Standard treatment included a two-stage procedure involving externalization of the ventricular catheter in combination with intraventricular and systemic administration of antibiotic medication followed by shunt replacement. Intraventricular treatment consisted of daily instillations of vancomycin or gentamicin with trough concentrations held at high levels of 7 to 17 mg/L for both antibiotic agents.
During a 13-year study period, the authors treated 34 consecutive intraventricular shunt infections in 30 children. Infections with coagulase-negative staphylococci predominated, and Gram-negative bacterial infection occurred in five children. Ten of the children were initially treated with intravenous antibiotic therapy for at least 3 days, but this treatment did not sterilize the CSF. After externalization of the ventricular catheter, high-dose intraventricular treatment was given for a median of 8 days (range 3–17 days) before shunt replacement.
The CSF was found to be sterile (cultures were negative for bacteria) in one of three, seven of eight, 20 of 20, and six of six cases after 1, 2, 3, and more than 3 days' treatment, respectively. In no case was any subsequent culture positive after a negative result had been obtained. Clinical symptoms resolved in parallel with the sterilization of the CSF. There were no relapses or deaths during the 6-month follow-up period, and there have been none as of April 2007.
Despite the ventricular catheter being left in place and the short duration of therapy, the treatment regimen described by the authors resulted in quick sterilization of the CSF, a low relapse rate, and survival of all patients in this series.