Introduction: Early surgical series of shunt insertion for idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus reported a low rate of short-term improvement with a relatively high rate of mortality and morbidity; subsequently shunt insertion was recommended for patients in whom there is favourable risk-to-benefit ratio.
Methods: Bibliographic search for studies that objectively assessed the outcome following shunt insertion in idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus was done; the aim was to estimate the outcome of shunt insertion in terms of improvement rates and associated mortality and morbidity.
Results: A total of 64 studies of 3,063 patients were reviewed. Positive improvement following shunt insertion was reported in an average of 71 % of patients with an average 1 % mortality. Results from studies published in the last 5 years showed 82 % improvement following shunt insertion, mortality of 0.2 %, and combined common complications rate of 8.2 %.
Conclusion: When patients are properly selected, shunt insertion is a safe and effective management of idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus with a prolonged positive outcome.