Object: The purpose of this prospective investigation was to determine the rate of complications associated with endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV).
Methods: Between March 1993 and October 2001, 193 ETVs were performed in 188 patients at a single institution. The age of the patients ranged from 1 month to 85 years (mean age 39 years). One procedure had to be abandoned because a severe venous hemorrhage blurred the surgeon's view; however, third ventriculostomy was successfully accomplished in that patient 14 days later. In addition, there were two cases in which significant venous hemorrhages could be controlled endoscopically by using irrigation. Postoperative imaging revealed three subdural collections, one tiny thalamic contusion, one cortical hemorrhage at the puncture site, and one severe subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). There were two deaths (1% mortality rate) related to the endoscopic procedure; causes of death were one SAH from a torn basilar perforating artery and one wound infection leading to meningitis and septic multiorgan failure. Three permanent deficits occurred (confusion, oculomotor palsy, and diabetes insipidus [1.6% permanent morbidity rate]). Transient deficits included four cases of meningitis, three cases of cerebrospinal fluid leak, two cases of herniation syndrome, two cases of confusion, one case in which there was a decrease of consciousness, two cases of oculomotor palsy, and one case in which there was loss of thirst (7.8% transient morbidity rate). Misplacement of the fenestration was the main reason for severe complications. During the course of the study, the complication rate dropped significantly (no incidences of mortality or permanent morbidity occurred during the last 100 procedures).
Conclusions: All permanent and fatal complications occurred during the authors' very early experience, indicating that a steep learning curve was associated with the procedure. Endoscopic third ventriculostomy, if performed correctly, is a safe, simple, and effective treatment option for various forms of noncommunicating hydrocephalus.