gms | German Medical Science

61st Annual Meeting of the German Society of Neurosurgery (DGNC) as part of the Neurowoche 2010
Joint Meeting with the Brazilian Society of Neurosurgery on the 20 September 2010

German Society of Neurosurgery (DGNC)

21 - 25 September 2010, Mannheim

Asymptomatic treatment failure in pediatric hydrocephalus – features of an under diagnosed (?) entity

Meeting Abstract

  • Andreas Speil - Bereich Pädiatrische Neurochirurgie, Klinik für Neurochirurgie, Universitätsklinikum Tübingen, Deutschland
  • Karin Haas-Lude - Abteilung Neuropädiatrie, Kinderklinik, Universitätsklinikum Tübingen, Deutschland
  • Andrea Bevot - Abteilung Neuropädiatrie, Kinderklinik, Universitätsklinikum Tübingen, Deutschland
  • Martin U. Schuhmann - Bereich Pädiatrische Neurochirurgie, Klinik für Neurochirurgie, Universitätsklinikum Tübingen, Deutschland

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie. 61. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie (DGNC) im Rahmen der Neurowoche 2010. Mannheim, 21.-25.09.2010. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2010. DocP1802

doi: 10.3205/10dgnc273, urn:nbn:de:0183-10dgnc2737

Published: September 16, 2010

© 2010 Speil et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Objective: It is commonly believed that shunt or ETV failure is associated with symptoms and signs of raised intracranial pressure. If the are absent, especially in children with related developmental delay or behavioral problems, a shunt or ETV failure may remain undiagnosed or considered not relevant. In reality, children may suffer subclinical damage from uncompensated intracranial CSF dynamics. We report on the imaging features and ICP monitoring results of almost or totally asymptomatic patients in whom shunt blockage/ETV reclosure was confirmed.

Methods: Patients in our interdisciplinary hydrocephalus clinic were critically re-evaluated for treatment failure by careful clinical assessment, followed by high-resolution MRI imaging and/or computerized overnight ICP analysis or shunt infusion study. If the suspicion of shunt/ETV malfunction and uncompensated intracranial CSF dynamics could be substantiated, children underwent surgery.

Results: We identified 15 children with suspected treatment failure in absence of symptoms or signs of raised intracranial pressure. In 5 children with large ventricles or migrated shunt catheters, ICP overnight monitoring showed the same pathological and pathognomonic features of shunt malfunction (high baseline ICP >15 mmHg, peak ICP over 25 mmHg, RAP Index 0.6 at baseline or during vasogenic events) as we had found previously in symptomatic patients. In 5 children ICP recordings were normal. One child had a pathological and one a normal shunt infusion study, respectively. In 3 totally asymptomatic children post ETV, ICP recordings were pathological. In all children, who underwent surgery, a blocked shunt component or a closed ETV was found.

Conclusions: Asymptomatic treatment failure in hydrocephalic children seems to be more common the more thoroughly children are evaluated. A hallmark of the problem in non-gravity assisted shunt systems is the failure of ventricles to become significantly smaller after surgery or ventricular re-expansion. High resolution MRI can detect scarring around the shunt tip or ETV re-closure, which is not visible in CT scans and standard MRI. ICP overnight monitoring or shunt infusion studies are excellent diagnostic tools since shunt failure has characteristic patterns and highly pathological nocturnal ICP readings can occur in totally asymptomatic patients.