The value of supplemental prognostic tests for the preoperative assessment of idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus

Neurosurgery. 2005 Sep;57(3 Suppl):S17-28; discussion ii-v. doi: 10.1227/01.neu.0000168184.01002.60.


Objective: The diagnosis and management of idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus (INPH) remains unclear. Moreover, the value of supplementary tests to predict which patients would benefit from placement of a shunt has not been established. This report develops evidence-based guidelines for the use of supplementary tests as an aid in prognosis.

Methods: MEDLINE searches from 1966 to the present were undertaken by use of the query NPH, normal-pressure hydrocephalus, lumbar drain, CSF [cerebrospinal fluid] tap test, and external CSF drainage in humans. This resulted in 242 articles. To provide a scientific, evidence-based review, we have chosen to restrict our analysis to clinically relevant studies usually consisting of large numbers of shunted NPH patients. Studies that did not specify INPH or secondary NPH were considered in a separate evidentiary table.

Results: Evidence-based guidelines for use in supplementary tests have been developed. A positive response to a 40- to 50-ml tap test has a higher degree of certainty for a favorable response to shunt placement than can be obtained by clinical examination. However, the tap test cannot be used as an exclusionary test because of its low sensitivity (26-61%). Determination of the CSF outflow resistance via an infusion test carries a higher sensitivity (57-100%) compared with the tap test and a similar positive predictive value of 75 to 92%. Prolonged external lumbar drainage in excess of 300 ml is associated with high sensitivity (50-100%) and high positive predictive value (80-100%).

Conclusion: To date, a single standard for the prognostic evaluation of INPH patients is lacking. However, supplemental tests can increase predictive accuracy for prognosis to greater than 90%. Additional multicenter prospective randomized clinical trials are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Shunts*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus, Normal Pressure / diagnosis*
  • Hydrocephalus, Normal Pressure / surgery*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Preoperative Care*
  • Prognosis