Objective: To develop guidelines for assessing shunt outcome in patients with idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus (INPH). To date, the literature available on this topic has been marked by disparate definitions of clinical improvement, varying postoperative follow-up protocols and periods, and substantial differences in the postoperative management. Because specific criteria for defining clinical improvement are seldom reported, conclusions drawn about shunt outcome may be subjective.
Methods: A MEDLINE search back to 1966 was undertaken using the query NPH, normal-pressure hydrocephalus, shunting, shunt treatment, shunt response, outcome, and clinical outcome. The criteria for selection were studies that included INPH from 1966 to the present in which the outcome of INPH was reported in patient groups of 20 or more.
Results: To date, there is no standard for outcome assessment of shunt treatment in INPH. The variable improvement rates reported are not only because of different criteria for selection of patients but also because of different postoperative assessment procedures and follow-up intervals.
Conclusion: Studies that have established fixed protocols for follow-up have shown that short- and long-term periods after shunting are determined by many factors. Whereas short-term results were more likely to be influenced by shunt-associated risks, long-term results were independent of factors inherent to the shunt procedure and shunt complications, i.e., death and morbidity related to concomitant cerebrovascular and vascular diseases. Studies have shown that beyond 1 year after surgery, these factors definitely influence the clinical effect of shunting, making the 1-year postshunt period a potential determinant of the shunt outcome. Guidelines for outcome assessment were developed on the basis of the available evidence and consensus of expert opinion.