Object — Chronic shunt-dependent hydrocephalus is a recognized complication of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. While its incidence and risk factors have been well described, the long-term performance of shunts in this setting has not been not widely reported.
Methods — Using administrative databases, the authors derived a retrospective cohort of patients undergoing treatment of a ruptured aneurysm in Ontario, Canada, between 1995 and 2005. The authors determined the incidence of shunt-dependent hydrocephalus and analyzed putative risk factors. Mortality rates and indicators of morbidity were recorded. Patients were followed up for the occurrence of shunt failure over time.
Results — Of 3120 patients in the cohort, 585 (18.75%) developed shunt-dependent hydrocephalus. On multivariate analysis, age, acute hydrocephalus, ventilation on admission, aneurysms in the posterior circulation and giant aneurysms were all significant predictors of shunt-dependent hydrocephalus. The mortality rate was not increased in patients with chronic hydrocephalus (hazard ratio 1.04, p = 0.63); however, indicators of morbidity were increased in these patients. Of the 585 patients with shunt-dependent hydrocephalus, only 173 (29.6%) underwent a subsequent revision procedure. Ninety-eight percent of these revisions were completed within 6 months. Subsequent revisions occurred more frequently. On multivariate analysis, significant predictors of shunt revision included aneurysm location in the posterior circulation and endovascular treatment of the initial ruptured aneurysm.
Conclusions — Shunt-dependent hydrocephalus affects a significant proportion of subarachnoid hemorrhage survivors, contributing to additional morbidity among these patients. Shunt failures occur less frequently in patients who underwent treatment for a ruptured aneurysm than with other forms of hydrocephalus. Most failures occur within 6 months, suggesting that shunt dependency may be transient in the majority of patients.