Ventricular shunt complications in children can be severe and life-threatening if not identified and treated in a timely manner. Evaluation for shunt obstruction is not without risk, including lifetime cumulative radiation as patients routinely receive computed tomography (CT) scans of the brain and shunt series (multiple radiographs of the skull, neck, chest, and abdomen).
A multidisciplinary team collaborated to develop a clinical pathway with the goal of standardizing the evaluation and management of patients with suspected shunt complication. The team implemented a low-dose CT scan, specifically tailored for the detection of hydrocephalus and discouraged routine use of shunt series with single-view radiographs used only when specifically indicated.
There was a reduction in the average CT effective dose (millisievert) per emergency department (ED) encounter of 50.6% (confidence interval, 46.0–54.9; P ≤ .001) during the intervention period. There was a significant reduction in the number of shunt surveys obtained per ED encounter, from 62.4% to 5.32% (P < .01). There was no significant change in the 72-hour ED revisit rate or CT scan utilization rate after hospital admission. There were no reports of inadequate patient evaluations or serious medical events.
A new clinical pathway has rapidly reduced radiation exposure, both by reducing the radiation dose of CT scans and eliminating or reducing the number of radiographs obtained in the evaluation of patients with ventricular shunts without compromising clinical care.