The objective of this study was to review current literature on the management of posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus in preterm infants with intraventricular administration of fibrinolytic agents; to this end a literature search was carried out electronically. The keywords used were "intraventricular hemorrhage" or "posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus" in combination with "fibrinolytic agent," "urokinase," "streptokinase," or "recombinant tissue plasminogen activator" and "intraventricular administration"; the search covered the years 1966-1998 and was restricted to English language papers and human subjects. It was supplemented by a search through the reference lists of the articles identified. Articles dealing with intracerebral hemorrhage or hematoma, intraventricular hemorrhage in adults, nontherapeutic issues and laboratory research were excluded. The articles included are summarized in evidence and evaluation tables. Five scientific publications evaluating the use of a fibrinolytic agent to manage posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus were retrieved. In the studies described in these reports, a total of 62 neonates received streptokinase, urokinase or r-tPA intraventricularly. No two of the regimens were identical in the drug used, method of administration and duration of therapy. The time before therapy was started ranged from 2 to 35 days after the ictus. Among the case series reported, three were small series with a total of 38 neonates. One other case series of 18 neonates compared the treatment group with an historical control group. All case series showed that endoventricular fibrinolytic therapy was practical. The proportion of cases in which shunt placement was performed ranged from 11% to 100%. Only one small prospective, randomized, controlled study was identified. That study was too small to allow useful conclusions. Overall, 3 cases of secondary intraventricular hemorrhage were reported. However, it was not possible to determine with certainty whether these episodes were related to the drug therapy itself. The reports suffer from inadequate study design, lack of descriptive information and short follow-up period. There is insufficient evidence to justify the claim that fibrinolytic agents administered intraventricularly in posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus are safe and effective. More evidence is needed to prove or disprove the effectiveness and safety of this form of therapy.