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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2002 Apr;72(4):503-6.

The value of temporary external lumbar CSF drainage in predicting the outcome of shunting on normal pressure hydrocephalus.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.



It has been reported that temporary external lumbar CSF drainage (ELD) is a very accurate test for predicting the outcome after ventricular shunting in patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). However, only a limited number of patients have been studied for assessing the predictive accuracy of ELD. Therefore, the value of ELD in predicting the outcome after a ventriculoperitoneal shunt in patients with presumed NPH was assessed.


All patients with presumed NPH were invited to participate in this study. Clinical assessment, MRI, and neuropsychological evaluation were followed by a lumbar CSF tap test consisting of removing 40 ml CSF. When this test resulted in marked clinical improvement of gait impairment, mental disturbances, or both, the patient was shunted without further tests. In patients with either questionable or no improvement after the CSF tap test, ELD was carried out. The value of ELD for predicting the outcome after shunting was calculated by correlating the results of ELD with that of ventriculoperitoneal shunting.


Between January 1994 and December 2000, 49 presumed NPH patients from three institutes were included. Forty three had idiopathic, and the remaining six had secondary NPH. Forty eight patients were shunted; 39 had an ELD of whom 38 completed the test. After 2 months 35 of the 48 (73%) shunted patients had improved. The predictive value of a positive ELD was 87% (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 62-98) and that of a negative ELD 36% (95% CI 17-59). In two patients serious test related complications (meningitis) occurred without residual deficit.


The study suggests that although the predictive value of a positive ELD is high, that of a negative ELD is deceptively low because of the high rate of false negative results. The costs and invasiveness of the test and the possibility of serious test related complications further limits its usefulness in managing patients with presumed NPH.

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