Epilepsy in children with shunted hydrocephalus

J Neurosurg. 1999 Feb;90(2):274-81. doi: 10.3171/jns.1999.90.2.0274.


Object: The incidence of epilepsy among children with hydrocephalus and its relation to shunts and their complications, raised intracranial pressure (ICP), and developmental outcome are explored in a retrospective study.

Methods: The authors studied a series of 802 children with hydrocephalus due to varying causes, who were treated by ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement between 1980 and 1990, with a mean follow-up period of 8 years. Patients who had tumoral hydrocephalus and those whose files lacked significant data were excluded. Data extracted from medical records, including history of the hydrocephalus and history of seizures, if any, were analyzed. Thirty-two percent of the children had epilepsy, the onset of which frequently occurred at approximately the same time that the diagnosis of hydrocephalus was made. The majority of the affected children had severe uncontrolled epilepsy. The incidence of epilepsy was significantly affected by the original cause of the hydrocephalus. The presence of radiological abnormalities was also found to be a significant predictor of epilepsy. Similarly, shunt complications predisposed to epilepsy. Episodes of raised ICP related to hydrocephalus or in association with shunt malfunction may also predispose to epileptic seizures. Furthermore, the presence of a shunt by itself seems able to promote an epileptogenic focus. Finally, epilepsy appears to be an important predictor of poor intellectual outcome in hydrocephalic children with shunts.

Conclusions: A prospective study is needed to identify clearly and confirm avoidable factors predisposing to seizures in these children so that we can strive to reduce the incidence of these seizures and, subsequently, improve these children's quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Birth Injuries / complications
  • Central Nervous System / abnormalities
  • Central Nervous System / diagnostic imaging
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / complications*
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Epilepsy / etiology
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus / complications*
  • Hydrocephalus / etiology
  • Hydrocephalus / physiopathology
  • Hydrocephalus / surgery*
  • Incidence
  • Intracranial Hypertension / complications
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt* / adverse effects