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The role of endoscopic third ventriculostomy in the treatment of hydrocephalus.

OBJECT: Hydrocephalus remains a major public health problem. Conventional treatment has relied on extracranial shunting of CSF to another systemic site, but this approach is associated with a high rate of complications. Endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) is a novel treatment for select forms of hydrocephalus that can eliminate the need for implantation of a lifelong ventricular shunt system. However, the indications for ETV are contested and its long-term effectiveness is not well established.

METHODS: The authors selected 100 consecutive patients who underwent ETV for hydrocephalus beginning in 1994. Patients were enrolled and treated at a single institution by a single surgeon. The primary outcome was success of ETV, with success defined as no need for subsequent surgery for hydrocephalus.

RESULTS: Ninety-five patients satisfied the inclusion criteria. The mean follow-up period was 5.1 years (median 4.7 years) with follow-up data available for as long as 17 years. Patients commonly presented with headache (85%), ataxia (34%), emesis (29%), and changes in vision (27%). The success rate for ETV was 75%. Twenty-one patients (22%) in the series had malfunctioning shunts preoperatively and 13 (62%) were successfully treated with ETV. Preoperative inferior bowing of the third ventricle floor on MRI was significantly associated with ETV success (p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Endoscopic third ventriculostomy is an effective and durable treatment for select patients with hydrocephalus. When successful, the procedure eliminates the lifelong complications associated with implanted ventricular shunts.

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