The Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network quality improvement initiative: the role of antibiotic-impregnated catheters and vancomycin wound irrigation

Academic Article


  • OBJECTIVE Two previous Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network (HCRN) studies have demonstrated that compliance with a standardized CSF shunt infection protocol reduces shunt infections. In this third iteration, a simplified protocol consisting of 5 steps was implemented. This analysis provides an updated evaluation of protocol compliance and evaluates modifiable shunt infection risk factors. METHODS The new simplified protocol was implemented at HCRN centers on November 1, 2016, for all shunt procedures, excluding external ventricular drains, ventricular reservoirs, and subgaleal shunts. Procedures performed through December 31, 2019, were included (38 months). Compliance with the protocol, use of antibiotic-impregnated catheters (AICs), and other variables of interest were collected at the index operation. Outcome events for a minimum of 6 months postoperatively were recorded. The definition of infection was unchanged from the authors’ previous report. RESULTS A total of 4913 procedures were performed at 13 HCRN centers. The overall infection rate was 5.1%. Surgeons were compliant with all 5 steps of the protocol in 79.4% of procedures. The infection rate for the protocol alone was 8.1% and dropped to 4.9% when AICs were added. Multivariate analysis identified having ≥ 2 complex chronic conditions (odds ratio [OR] 1.76, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.26–2.44, p = 0.01) and a history of prior shunt surgery within 12 weeks (OR 1.84, 95% CI 1.37–2.47, p < 0.01) as independent risk factors for shunt infection. The use of AICs (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.50–0.97, p = 0.05) and vancomycin irrigation (OR 0.36, 95% CI 0.21–0.62, p < 0.01) were identified as independent factors protective against shunt infection. CONCLUSIONS The authors report the third iteration of their quality improvement protocol to reduce the risk of shunt infection. Compliance with the protocol was high. These updated data suggest that the incorporation of AICs is an important, modifiable infection prevention measure. Vancomycin irrigation was also identified as a protective factor but requires further study to better understand its role in preventing shunt infection.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Chu J; Jensen H; Holubkov R; Krieger MD; Kulkarni AV; Riva-Cambrin J; Rozzelle CJ; Limbrick DD; Wellons JC; Browd SR
  • Start Page

  • 711
  • End Page

  • 718
  • Volume

  • 29
  • Issue

  • 6