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Benjamin C. Warf, Blake C. Alkire, Salman Bhai, Christopher Hughes, Steven J. Schiff, Jeffrey R. Vincent and John G. Meara

Object

Evidence from the CURE Children's Hospital of Uganda (CCHU) suggests that treatment for hydrocephalus in infants can be effective and sustainable in a developing country. This model has not been broadly supported or implemented due in part to the absence of data on the economic burden of disease or any assessment of the cost and benefit of treatment. The authors used economic modeling to estimate the annual cost and benefit of treating hydrocephalus in infants at CCHU. These results were then extrapolated to the potential economic impact of treating all cases of hydrocephalus in infants in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Methods

The authors conducted a retrospective review of all children initially treated for hydrocephalus at CCHU via endoscopic third ventriculostomy or shunt placement in 2005. A combination of data and explicit assumptions was used to determine the number of times each procedure was performed, the cost of performing each procedure, the number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) averted with neurosurgical intervention, and the economic benefit of the treatment. For CCHU and SSA, the cost per DALY averted and the benefit-cost ratio of 1 year's treatment of hydrocephalus in infants were determined.

Results

In 2005, 297 patients (median age 4 months) were treated at CCHU. The total cost of neurosurgical intervention was $350,410, and the cost per DALY averted ranged from $59 to $126. The CCHU's economic benefit to Uganda was estimated to be between $3.1 million and $5.2 million using a human capital approach and $4.6 million–$188 million using a value of a statistical life (VSL) approach. The total economic benefit of treating the conservatively estimated 82,000 annual cases of hydrocephalus in infants in SSA ranged from $930 million to $1.6 billion using a human capital approach and $1.4 billion–$56 billion using a VSL approach. The minimum benefit-cost ratio of treating hydrocephalus in infants was estimated to be 7:1.

Conclusions

Untreated hydrocephalus in infants exacts an enormous price from SSA. The results of this study suggest that neurosurgical intervention has a cost/DALY averted comparable to other surgical interventions that have been evaluated, as well as a favorable benefit-cost ratio. The prevention and treatment of hydrocephalus in SSA should be recognized as a major public health priority.

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James Drake

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Benjamin C. Warf, Salman Bhai, Abhaya V. Kulkarni and John Mugamba

Object

It is not known whether previous endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) affects the risk of shunt failure. Different epochs of hydrocephalus treatment at the CURE Children's Hospital of Uganda (CCHU)—initially placing CSF shunts in all patients, then attempting ETV in all patients, and finally attempting ETV combined with choroid plexus cauterization (CPC) in all patients—provided the opportunity to assess whether prior endoscopic surgery affected shunt survival.

Methods

With appropriate institutional approvals, the authors reviewed the CCHU clinical database to identify 2329 patients treated for hydrocephalus from December 2000 to May 2007. Initial ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt placement was performed in 900 patients under one of three circumstances: 1) primary nonselective VP shunt placement with no endoscopy (255 patients); 2) VP shunt placement at the time of abandoned ETV attempt (with or without CPC) (370 patients); 3) VP shunt placement subsequent to a completed but failed ETV (with or without CPC) (275 patients). We analyzed time to shunt failure using the Kaplan-Meier method to construct survival curves, Cox proportional hazards regression modeling, and risk-adjusted analyses to account for possible confounding differences among these groups.

Results

Shunt failure occurred in 299 patients, and the mean duration of follow-up for the remaining 601 was 28.7 months (median 18.8, interquartile range 4.1–46.3). There was no significant difference in operative mortality (p = 0.07 by log-rank and p = 0.14 by Cox regression adjusted for age and hydrocephalus etiology) or shunt infection (p = 0.94, log-rank) among the 3 groups. There was no difference in shunt survival between patients treated with primary shunt placement and those who underwent shunt placement at the time of an abandoned ETV attempt (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 1.14, 95% CI 0.86–1.51, p = 0.35).

Those who underwent shunt placement after a completed but failed ETV (with or without CPC) had a lower risk of shunt failure (p = 0.008, log-rank), with a hazard ratio (adjusted for age at shunting and etiology) of 0.72 (95% CI 0.53–0.98), p = 0.03, compared with those who underwent primary shunt placement without endoscopy; but this was observed only in patients with postinfectious hydrocephalus (PIH) (adjusted HR 0.55, 95% CI 0.36–0.85, p = 0.007), and no effect was apparent for hydrocephalus of noninfectious etiologies (adjusted HR 0.98, 95% CI 0.64–1.50, p = 0.92). Improved shunt survival after failed ETV in the PIH group may be an artifact of selection arising from the inherent heterogeneity of ventricular damage within that group, or a consequence of the timing of shunt placement. The anticipated benefit of CPC in preventing future ventricular catheter obstruction was not observed.

Conclusions

A paradigm for infant hydrocephalus involving intention to treat by ETV with or without CPC had no adverse effect on mortality or on subsequent shunt survival or infection risk. This study failed to demonstrate a positive effect of prior ETV or CPC on shunt survival.