Changes in visual acuity associated with shunt failure

Robert Kraus, William C. Hanigan, Jorge Kattah, William C. Olivero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Object: The object of this article was to report on a retrospective analysis of the clinical findings in a series of patients with changes in visual acuity associated with shunt failure. Methods and results: Over a 10-year period, 350 patients underwent revisions for shunt failure. The clinical course of patients who demonstrated changes in visual acuity (VA) before or during hospitalization were reviewed; follow-up was achieved using outpatient records and telephone calls with physicians, family, or caregivers. Six patients (4 male) ranging in age from 2.5 years to 40 years demonstrated changes in vision associated with shunt failure. The youngest patient lapsed into coma before transfer and showed bilateral occipital lobe infarctions on the CT scan. Three patients had no complaints referable to the visual system prior to revision. Two patients with symptoms lasting more than 21 days showed unequivocal signs of increased intracranial pressure. Serial CT scans remained unchanged in 2 patients. A 3rd patient showed questionable progression in ventricular volume, while another patient's ventricles dilated after a period of 48-72 h. Four patients demonstrated a pattern of aqueductal stenosis, longterm shunting without revision, small ventricles, and poor outpatient follow-up. Four patients showed partial or complete recovery following revision. Conclusions: Changes in vision are uncommon and can be an isolated finding associated with shunt failure. Patients with aqueductal stenosis, long-term shunting without revision, and small, potentially non-compliant ventricles may be at risk of this complication. Misdiagnosis or inadequate follow-up places these patients at additional risk, but rapid revision can result in partial or complete recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-231
Number of pages6
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Hydrocephalus
  • Shunt failure
  • Visual deterioration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology

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