Additive value of nuclear medicine shuntograms to computed tomography for suspected cerebrospinal fluid shunt obstruction in the pediatric emergency department

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2009 Dec;25(12):827-30. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3181c07461.


Objective: To measure the predictive value of nuclear medicine studies (cerebrospinal fluid [CSF] shuntograms) and radiographic studies (computed tomographic [CT] scans) in a cohort of children undergoing evaluation for suspected shunt obstruction in a tertiary care pediatric emergency department (ED).

Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted on patients younger than 18 years who presented to the pediatric ED of the Children's Hospital of Western Ontario and had both CT of the head and a CSF shuntogram ordered by the attending pediatric emergency medicine physician between December 1998 and April 2003 because of suspected shunt obstruction.

Results: A total of 69 patients were evaluated for suspected shunt obstruction in the ED during this period with both a CT and a CSF shuntogram. Twenty-seven patients (39.1%) subsequently required corrective surgery for suspected shunt obstruction that was confirmed intraoperatively. The CT scans showed abnormalities suggestive of CSF shunt obstruction in 21 of the patients who required surgery (sensitivity, 77.8%; negative predictive value, 82.4%), whereas the CSF shuntograms showed abnormalities suggestive of CSF obstruction in 25 of the patients who required surgery (sensitivity, 92.6%; negative predictive value, 92.6%). The CT scans and the shuntograms combined revealed abnormalities suggestive of CSF shunt obstruction in 26 of the 27 patients who required surgery (sensitivity, 96.3%; negative predictive value, 97.4%).

Conclusions: Over one third of pediatric ED patients evaluated with CT and CSF shuntograms required surgical management. Sensitivity was increased with CT and CSF shuntogram compared with CT alone. Prospective studies are required to assess the use of radiographic and nuclear medicine tests for the shunt evaluation in conjunction with the development of a clinical prediction rule for the pediatric emergency physician.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cerebral Ventriculography / instrumentation*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Shunts / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Equipment Failure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hydrocephalus / surgery
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Ontario
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Technetium Tc 99m Pentetate
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Technetium Tc 99m Pentetate