The clinical spectrum of shunt nephritis

D Haffner, F Schindera, A Aschoff, S Matthias, R Waldherr, K Schärer
Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation 1997, 12 (6): 1143-8

BACKGROUND: Shunt nephritis is an immune-complex-mediated glomerulonephritis (GN) associated with chronically infected ventriculoatrial shunts inserted for treatment of hydrocephalus.

METHODS: Six patients aged 5-22 years with shunt nephritis are reported who have been observed between 1971 and 1994. The clinical course and long-term outcome are analysed in relation to the time of diagnosis and renal histopathology.

RESULTS: The time of diagnosis of shunt nephritis ranged from 0.3 to 4.5 years after the last shunt operation. Diagnosis was delayed up to 1.5 years after the first clinical manifestations. All patients had signs of infection, i.e. recurrent fever, hepatosplenomegaly, anaemia, and cerebral symptoms. Renal manifestations consisted of haematuria (macroscopic in 3 patients), proteinuria (heavy in 5), renal insufficiency (4) and hypertension (2). Decreased C3 levels, cryoglobulins, and antinuclear factors were frequent. Cultures of blood and cerebrospinal fluid provided growth mainly of S. epidermidis. Renal biopsy revealed endocapillary GN (1), membranoproliferative GN (1) and endocapillary/extracapillary GN with crescents (2). All patients received antibiotics i.v. Complete recovery was observed in three of four patients in whom the shunt was totally removed, supported by transient external drainage of cerebrospinal fluid, and followed by placement of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt. One child with delayed diagnosis, presenting with a serum creatinine of 3.2 mg/dl, hypertension, and severe scarring on renal biopsy, rapidly progressed to irreversible ESRD within 5 months. Two patients without and only partial removal of the shunt died subsequently from sepsis.

CONCLUSIONS: The renal outcome of shunt nephritis is good if early diagnosis and treatment is provided including i.v. antibiotics and total removal of the infected shunt. The possible progression to ESRD requires frequent nephrological monitoring of patients with ventriculoatrial shunts.

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