In this study the authors' goal was to identify the complication rate of subduroperitoneal (SDP) shunts for the treatment of subdural hematomas (SDHs) in infants and to determine the influences on and predictive factors for these complications.
The authors present a case series spanning the years 1994 to 2003 and include a statistical analysis of 161 children 2 years of age or younger with SDH who were treated using a unilateral valveless SDP shunt. The patient history, characteristics, and treatment methods including prior therapies, neuroimaging findings, and clinical outcomes were measures of evaluation.
Thirty-six children (22.4%) suffered complications related to SDP shunts: obstruction in 27 (16.8%), infections in eight (5%), disconnection in four (2.5%), migration in three (1.9%), wound complications (leakage and skin ulceration) in two (1.2%), and symptomatic subdural rebleeding in one (0.6%) necessitating bur hole evacuation. Seventeen children (10.6%) underwent placement of a second SDP shunt because of ipsilateral or contralateral persistent fluid collections, or premature shunt removal. With the exception of 12 patients (7.4%), shunt removal was performed systematically and resulted in the following minor complications in 30 children (18.6%): an adherent proximal catheter in 16 (9.9%), transient symptoms of intracranial hypertension in six (3.7%), subcutaneous cerebrospinal fluid accumulation in four (2.5%), local infections in three (1.9%), and hydrocephalus requiring placement of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt in one (0.6%).
Status epilepticus at presentation and neuroimaging findings such as areas of hyperdensity on computed tomography (CT) scans representing fresh blood in the subdural fluid collections before shunt insertion and at follow up were predictors of shunt-related complications. Correlations were also discovered for the following CT findings: ischemic lesions before shunt treatment, cerebral atrophy and ventricular dilation during the last follow up, and residual medium to large collections before shunt removal. Children who attained a good outcome were less affected by shunt-related complications, unlike those who presented with focal deficits and/or visual impairment.
Subduroperitoneal shunt placement for the treatment of SDH in infants is—despite the complication rate—an effective and often inevitable treatment option, especially for most large and symptomatic SDHs; a certain number of complications could be reduced with careful and precise surgical techniques. Close observation for detection of risks is mandatory, and seizure control is essential to prevent further brain injury that may result in large subdural fluid collections that are difficult to treat.