Posthaemorrhagic ventricular dilatation (PHVD) in very preterm infants carries a poor prognosis. As earlier studies have failed to show a benefit of early intervention, it is recommended that PHVD be first treated when head circumference is rapidly increasing and/or when symptoms of raised intracranial pressure develop. Infants with PHVD, admitted to 5 of the 10 Dutch neonatal intensive care units were studied retrospectively, to investigate whether there was a difference in the time of onset of treatment of PHVD and, if so, whether this was associated with a difference in the requirement of a ventriculo-peritoneal (VP) shunt and/or neurodevelopmental outcome. The surviving infants with a gestational age <34 wk, born between 1992 and 1996, diagnosed as having a grade III haemorrhage according to Papile on cranial ultrasound and who developed PHVD were included in the study. PHVD was defined as a ventricular index (VI) exceeding the 97th percentile according to Levene (1981), and severe PHVD as a VI crossing the p 97 + 4 mm line. Ninety-five infants met the entry criteria. Intervention was not deemed necessary in 22 infants, because of lack of progression. In 31 infants lumbar punctures (LP) were done before the p 97 + 4 mm line was crossed (early intervention). In 20/31 infants, stabilization occurred. In 9 a subcutaneous reservoir was placed, with subsequent stabilization in 6. In 5/31 infants a VP shunt was eventually inserted. In 42 infants treatment was started once the p 97 + 4 mm line was crossed (late intervention). In 30 infants LPs were performed and in 17 of these a VP shunt was eventually inserted. In 11 infants a subcutaneous reservoir was immediately inserted and in 8 of these infants a VP shunt was needed. In one infant a VP shunt was immediately inserted, without any other form of treatment. Infants with late intervention crossed the p 97 + 4 mm earlier (p 0.03) and needed a shunt (26/42; 62%) more often than those with early intervention (5/31; 16%). Early LP was associated with a strongly reduced risk of VP-shunting (odds ratio = 0.22, 95% confidence interval: 0.08-0.62). The number of infants who developed a moderate or severe handicap was also higher (11/42; 26%) in the late intervention group, compared with those not requiring any intervention (3/22; 14%) or treated early (5/31; 16%).
Conclusion: In this retrospective study, infants receiving late intervention required shunt insertion significantly more often than those treated early. A randomized prospective intervention study, comparing early and late drainage, is required to further assess the role of earlier intervention.