Although in recent years the percentage of preterm infants who suffer intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH) has reduced, posthaemorrhagic hydrocephalus (PHH) remains a serious problem with a high rate of cerebral palsy and no evidence-based treatment. Survivors often have to undergo ventriculoperitoneal shunt (VPS) surgery, which makes the child permanently dependent on a valve and catheter system. This carries a significant risk of infection and the need for surgical revision of the shunt. Repeated removal of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by either lumbar puncture, ventricular puncture, or from a ventricular reservoir in preterm babies with IVH has been suggested as a treatment to reduce the risk of PHH development.
To determine the effect of repeated cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) removal (by lumbar/ventricular puncture or removal from a ventricular reservoir) compared to conservative management, where removal is limited to when there are signs of raised intracranial pressure (ICP), on reduction in the risk of permanent shunt dependence, neurodevelopmental disability, and death in neonates with or at risk of developing posthaemorrhagic hydrocephalus (PHH).
We used the standard search strategy of Cochrane Neonatal to search the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2016, Issue 3), MEDLINE via PubMed (1966 to 24 March 2016), Embase (1980 to 24 March 2016), and CINAHL (1982 to 24 March 2016). We also searched clinical trials databases, conference proceedings, and the reference lists of retrieved articles for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs.
RCTs and quasi-RCTs that compared serial removal of CSF (via lumbar puncture, ventricular puncture, or from a ventricular reservoir) with conservative management (removing CSF only when there were symptoms of raised ICP). Trials also had to report on at least one of the specified outcomes of death, disability, or shunt insertion.
We extracted details of the participant selection, participant allocation and the interventions. We assessed the following outcomes: VPS, death, death or shunt, disability, multiple disability, death or disability, and CSF infection. We assessed the quality of the evidence using the GRADE approach.
Four trials (five articles) met the inclusion criteria of this review; three were RCTs and one was a quasi-RCT; and included a total of 280 participants treated in neonatal intensive care units in the UK. The trials were published between 1980 and 1990. The studies were sufficiently similar regarding the research question they asked and the interventions that we could combine the trials to assess the effect of the intervention.Meta-analysis showed that the intervention produced no significant difference when compared to conservative management for the outcomes of: placement of hydrocephalus shunt (typical risk ratio (RR) 0.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.73 to 1.26; 3 trials, 233 infants; I² statistic = 0%; moderate quality evidence), death (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.44; 4 trials, 280 infants; I² statistic = 0%; low quality evidence), major disability in survivors (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.18; 2 trials, 141 infants; I² statistic = 11%; high quality evidence), multiple disability in survivors (RR 0.9, 95% CI 0.66 to 1.24; 2 trials, 141 infants; I² statistic = 0%; high quality evidence), death or disability (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.14; 2 trials, 180 infants; I² statistic = 0%; high quality evidence), death or shunt (RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.75 to 1.11; 3 trials, 233 infants; I² statistic = 0%; moderate quality evidence), and infection of CSF presurgery (RR 1.73, 95% CI 0.53 to 5.67; 2 trials, 195 infants; low quality evidence).We assessed the quality of the evidence as high for the outcomes of major disability, multiple disability, and disability or death. We rated the evidence for the outcomes of shunt insertion, and death or shunt insertion as of moderate quality as one included trial used an alternation method of randomisation. For the outcomes of death and infection of CSF presurgery, the quality of the evidence was low as one trial used an alternation method, the number of participants was too low to assess the objectives with sufficient precision, and there was inconsistency regarding the findings in the included trials regarding the outcome of infection of CSF presurgery.
There was no evidence that repeated removal of CSF via lumbar puncture, ventricular puncture or from a ventricular reservoir produces any benefit over conservative management in neonates with or at risk for developing PHH in terms of reduction of disability, death, or need for placement of a permanent shunt.