Return to the emergency department after ventricular shunt evaluation

Samir Sarda, Harold K Simon, Daniel A Hirsh, Andrew Wang, R Shane Tubbs, Joshua J Chern
Journal of Neurosurgery. Pediatrics 2016, 17 (4): 397-402
OBJECT Patients with CSF shunts are medically complex and frequently present to the emergency department (ED) with suspected shunt malfunction. After adequate evaluation in the ED and proper disposition, some patients return to the ED within a short period of time. In this study, the authors examined the reasons for ED revisits within 7 days of the index ED visit to discern possible preventable returns. METHODS There were 3080 index ED visits made by patients with shunted hydrocephalus between 2010 and 2013. Index ED visits preceded by another ED visit or neurosurgical procedure within 60 days were excluded. Index ED visits for reasons unrelated to shunt function and those that led directly to admissions and shunt revision surgeries were also excluded. The remaining 1509 ED visits were eligible for analysis in this study. Final dispositions from the index ED visit included home (1176 cases), admission to the neurosurgery service for observation (134 cases), and admission to other services (199 cases). Subsequent events within 7 days, including ED revisits, hospital admissions, and shunt-related surgery were recorded, and reasons for the ED revisits were categorized based on whether the visit was related to shunt function concerns. Clinical and socioeconomic factors were analyzed for their association with ED revisits by using statistical methods. RESULTS Of the 1176 patients discharged home from the ED after shunt function evaluation, 101 (8.6%) returned to the ED within 7 days. Of the 134 patients admitted to the neurosurgery service for observation only, 8 (6.0%) returned to the ED within 7 days of discharge. Of the 199 patients admitted to hospital services other than neurosurgery, 13 (6.5%) returned to the ED within 7 days of discharge. The reasons for ED revisits vary (total of 122 visits combining the 3 groups), but at least 60% of the revisits were clearly unrelated to shunt function. A younger age, daytime arrival to the ED, and living within the metropolitan area were identified as risk factors for ED revisits. CONCLUSIONS Children with CSF shunts are medically complex and use ED services often. After an index ED visit at which shunt function was deemed to be the chief concern, the purpose of the subsequent return to the ED within 7 days was often for complaints unrelated to shunt function. Caution is warranted when attempting to classify these complex patients as having potential preventable return-to-system events.

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