Is the placement of shunts in patients with idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus worth the risk? Results of a study based on continuous monitoring of intracranial pressure

J Neurosurg. 2004 May;100(5):855-66. doi: 10.3171/jns.2004.100.5.0855.


Object: Data from many studies have demonstrated that shunt insertion in patients with idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is associated with high morbidity and a lack of significant improvement; however, the use of strict diagnostic and treatment protocols can improve the results of surgery in these patients. The primary aim in this prospective study was to analyze the results of shunt placement in 43 patients with idiopathic NPH. A secondary aim was to determine the relationship between several clinical and neuroimaging factors, and patient outcome after surgery.

Methods: Thirty men and 13 women with a mean age of 71.1 +/- 6.9 years participated in this study. All patients underwent clinical, neuropsychological, and radiological assessment before and 6 months after surgery. In all patients continuous monitoring of intracranial pressure was performed using a fiberoptic extradural sensor. In 31 patients cerebrospinal fluid dynamics were also determined. Eighty-six percent of patients showed clinical improvement after shunt insertion, 11.6% showed no change, and 2.3% exhibited some worsening. Gait improved in 81.4% of the patients, sphincter control in 69.8%, and cognitive dysfunction in 39.5%. There was no treatment-related death. Early or late postsurgical complications occurred in six patients (14%), although all of these complications were minor or were satisfactorily resolved. The complete clinical triad, cortical sulci size, and periventricular lucencies were related to outcome, whereas patient age, symptom duration, ventricular dilation, and the degree of presurgical dementia were unrelated to outcome.

Conclusions: Given the correct diagnosis, shunt insertion can produce marked improvement in patients with idiopathic NPH syndrome, causing few deaths and few clinically relevant complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrophy
  • Brain / pathology
  • Case Management
  • Cerebral Ventricles / pathology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure / physiology*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Shunts*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus, Normal Pressure / diagnosis
  • Hydrocephalus, Normal Pressure / physiopathology
  • Hydrocephalus, Normal Pressure / surgery*
  • Male
  • Manometry*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed