Current treatment of normal-pressure hydrocephalus: Comparison of flow-regulated and differential-pressure shunt valves

Howard L. Weiner, Shlomo Constantini, Henry Cohen, Jeffrey H. Wisoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


FROM THE RECORDS of approximately 1500 shunt operations performed between 1987 and 1992, we identified 37 adults between ages 38 and 86 years (mean, 70 yr) with the normal-pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) syndrome who underwent surgery by a single surgeon. Since 1990, we have routinely used a flow-regulated shunt system (Orbis-Sigma valve [OSV]; Cordis Corporation, Miami, FL) in these patients. In this study, we compared the OSV system with conventional differential-pressure (DP) shunt systems uniformly used before 1990. This series (n = 37) consisted of 62% men (n = 23) and 38% women (n = 14). We excluded all patients with hydrocephalus associated with central nervous system neoplasms, intracerebral hemorrhage, or trauma as well those with radiographically documented late-onset aqueductal stenosis. All patients presented with the NPH clinical syndrome, chiefly with magnetic gait. In addition, 75% of patients experienced cognitive loss and 59% experienced urinary incontinence. The mean duration of preoperative symptoms was 35 months (range, 7–120 mo). Eight patients (22%) had undergone previous shunting procedures before referral to our service. A total of 89 shunt operations were performed in the 37 patients. Using actuarial methods and controlling for a history of prior shunt surgery, we found no significant difference in the time to initial malfunction (shunt survival) between the OSV and the DP shunts. There were three subdural hematomas and one infection in the OSV group compared with no complications in the DP valve group (P = 0.11). Thirty-six patients were available for follow-up, at a mean of 14 months after surgery. Nearly 90% of all patients experienced improvement in gait after shunting, regardless of the valve system that was used. There was one unrelated death. Realizing the limitations of a retrospective analysis and on the basis of the limited number of patients in this study, we conclude that using actuarial methods, we found no significant difference in shunt survival when comparing the OSV with the standard DP valve shunt systems with antisiphon devices in patients with NPH. Contrary to previous reports, the OSV is not free of overdrainage complications. Most patients (89%) with the NPH syndrome who primarily presented with gait disorder experienced significant improvement in gait after either OSV or DP shunting procedures when selected for surgery on the basis of the clinical syndrome and confirmatory radiographic data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-884
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult hydrocephalus
  • Flow-regulated shunt
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Orbis-sigma valve
  • Shunt malfunction


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