Cerebrospinal shunt infection in patients receiving antibiotic-impregnated versus standard shunts

Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, Volume 8, Issue 3, Page 259-265, September 2011.

Scott L. Parker, M.D., William N. Anderson, Ph.D., Sean Lilienfeld, M.B.B.C.H., M.Med., J. Thomas Megerian, M.D., Ph.D., and Matthew J. McGirt, M.D.


Cerebrospinal fluid shunt infections are associated with significant morbidity and mortality in the treatment of adult and pediatric hydrocephalus. Antibiotic-impregnated shunt (AIS) catheters have been used with the aim of reducing shunt infection. While many studies have demonstrated a reduction in shunt infection with AIS, this reported efficacy has varied within the literature.


The authors performed a systematic literature review to identify all published articles comparing the incidence of CSF shunt infection in AIS versus non-AIS catheters. The incidence of infection for AIS versus non-AIS catheters was calculated using the Mantel-Haenszel common odds ratio, and baseline demographics were compared between AIS and non-AIS cohorts.


Twelve AIS versus non-AIS cohort comparisons were identified in the literature (5 pediatric hydrocephalus, 3 adult hydrocephalus, and 4 mixed populations). In a total of 5613 reported shunt procedures (2664 AISs vs 2949 non-AISs), AISs were associated with a reduction in shunt infection (3.3% vs 7.2%; OR 0.439, p < 0.0001). In 787 shunt procedures for adult hydrocephalus (427 AIS vs 360 non-AIS), AISs were associated with reduction in shunt infection (0.9% vs 5.8%; OR 0.153, p < 0.0001). In 1649 shunt procedures for pediatric hydrocephalus (854 AIS vs 795 non-AIS), AISs were associated with reduction in shunt infection (5.0% vs 11.2%; OR 0.421, p < 0.0001).


The authors’ systematic review of the literature demonstrates that AIS catheters are associated with a significant reduction over non-AIS catheters in the reported incidence of CSF shunt infection in adult and pediatric populations. The AIS catheters do not appear to be associated with an increased incidence of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms. Prospective, randomized trials are needed to firmly assess and confirm this apparent difference in infection incidence.


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