Patterns in neurosurgical adverse events: Cerebrospinal fluid shunt surgery

Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health
Neurosurgical FOCUS (Impact Factor: 2.11). 11/2012; 33(5):E13. DOI: 10.3171/2012.7.FOCUS12179
Source: PubMed


As part of a project to devise evidence-based safety interventions for specialty surgery, the authors sought to review current evidence in CSF shunt surgery concerning the frequency of adverse events in practice, their patterns, and the state of knowledge regarding methods for their reduction. This review may also inform future and ongoing efforts for the advancement of neurosurgical quality.

The authors performed a PubMed search using search terms "cerebral shunt," "cerebrospinal fluid shunt," "CSF shunt," "ventriculoperitoneal shunt," "cerebral shunt AND complications," "cerebrospinal fluid shunt AND complications," "CSF shunt AND complications," and "ventriculoperitoneal shunt AND complications." Only papers that specifically discussed the relevant complication rates were included. Papers were chosen to be included to maximize the range of rates of occurrence for the adverse events reported.

In this review of the neurosurgery literature, the reported rate of mechanical malfunction ranged from 8% to 64%. The use of programmable valves has increased but remains of unproven benefit even in randomized trials. Infection was the second most common complication, with the rate ranging from 3% to 12% of shunt operations. A meta-analysis that included 17 randomized controlled trials of perioperative antibiotic prophylaxis demonstrated a decrease in shunt infection by half (OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.36-0.73). Similarly, use of detailed protocols including perioperative antibiotics, skin preparation, and limitation of OR personnel and operative time, among other steps, were shown in uncontrolled studies to decrease shunt infection by more than half. Other adverse events included intraabdominal complications, with a reported incidence of 1% to 24%, intracerebral hemorrhage, reported to occur in 4% of cases, and perioperative epilepsy, with a reported association with shunt procedures ranging from 20% to 32%. Potential management strategies are reported but are largely without formal evaluation.

Surgery for CSF shunt placement or revision is associated with a high complication risk due primarily to mechanical issues and infection. Concerted efforts aimed at large-scale monitoring of neurosurgical complications and consistent quality improvement within these highlighted realms may significantly improve patient outcomes.

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    ABSTRACT: Neurosurgery is a high-risk specialty currently undertaking the pursuit of systematic approaches to reducing risk and to measuring and improving outcomes. The authors performed a review of patterns and frequencies of adverse events in neurosurgery as background for future efforts directed at the improvement of quality and safety in neurosurgery. They found 6 categories of contributory factors in neurosurgical adverse events, categorizing the events as influenced by issues in surgical technique, perioperative medical management, use of and adherence to protocols, preoperative optimization, technology, and communication. There was a wide distribution of reported occurrence rates for many of the adverse events, in part due to the absence of definitive literature in this area and to the lack of standardized reporting systems. On the basis of their analysis, the authors identified 5 priority recommendations for improving outcomes for neurosurgical patients at a population level: 1) development and implementation of a national registry for outcome data and monitoring; 2) full integration of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist into the operating room workflow, which improves fundamental aspects of surgical care such as adherence to antibiotic protocols and communication within surgical teams; and 3-5) activity by neurosurgical societies to drive increased standardization for the safety of specialized equipment used by neurosurgeons (3), more widespread regionalization and/or subspecialization (4), and establishment of data-driven guidelines and protocols (5). The fraction of adverse events that might be avoided if proposed strategies to improve practice and decrease variability are fully adopted remains to be determined. The authors hope that this consolidation of what is currently known and practiced in neurosurgery, the application of relevant advances in other fields, and attention to proposed strategies will serve as a basis for informed and concerted efforts to improve outcomes and patient safety in neurosurgery.
    Neurosurgical FOCUS 11/2012; 33(5):E1. DOI:10.3171/2012.9.FOCUS12184 · 2.11 Impact Factor

  • British Journal of Neurosurgery 04/2014; 28(3). DOI:10.3109/02688697.2014.899316 · 0.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Object: Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt surgery is the most common treatment for hydrocephalus. In certain situations, uncommon complications can occur after shunting procedures. The authors undertook this study to analyze the clinical characteristics of pediatric patients who developed multifocal intraparenchymal hemorrhages (MIPHs) as a complication of shunt surgery. The authors also analyzed the risk factors for MIPH in a large cohort of patients with hydrocephalus. Methods: This study included all pediatric patients (age < 18 years) who underwent VP shunt surgery at the authors' institution between January 2001 and December 2012. During this period, 507 VP shunt operations were performed in 330 patients. Four of these patients were subsequently diagnosed as having MIPH. The authors analyzed the clinical characteristics of these patients in comparison with those of the entire group of shunt-treated patients. Results: The incidence of MIPH was 1.2% (4 of 330 cases) for all pediatric patients who underwent VP shunt placement but 2.9% (4 of 140 cases) for infants less than 1 year old. When the analysis was limited to patients whose corrected age was less than 3 months, the incidence was 5.3% (4 of 76 cases). Of the 4 patients with MIPH, 2 were male and 2 were female. Their median age at surgery was 54 days (range 25-127 days), and in all 4 cases, the patients' corrected age was less than 1 month. Three patients were preterm infants, whereas one patient was full-term. None of these patients had a prior history of intracranial surgery (including CSF diversion procedures). All showed severe hydrocephalus during the preoperative period. Their clinical courses as patients with MIPH were comparatively favorable, despite the radiological findings. Conclusions: MIPH is a rare but not negligible complication of VP shunt surgery. This complication might be a unique phenomenon in infants, especially young, preterm infants with severe hydrocephalus. Moreover, the absence of previous intracranial procedures might be one of the risk factors for this complication. The rapid alteration of brain conditions in the setting of immaturity might cause MIPH. To prevent this complication, the authors recommend that pressure settings of programmable valves should be gradually adapted to the target pressure.
    Journal of Neurosurgery Pediatrics 07/2014; 14(4):1-7. DOI:10.3171/2014.6.PEDS13635 · 1.48 Impact Factor
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