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One of the difficulties with lumboperitoneal (LP) shunts has been non-invasively ascertaining shunt function. It has been previously reported that in the presence of a functioning LP shunt the perimesencephalic cisterns become obliterated – the “absent cistern sign”. In order to more rigorously test this association we performed a retrospective analysis of LP shunt patients at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto.
The CT scans of all patients undergoing LP shunting over a 17 year period were reviewed. The “absent cistern sign” and ventricular size were compared against the results of either an isotope shunt study or surgical findings performed within 2 days of the CT.
There were 38 CT scans (27 patients) performed within 2 days of an isotope shunt study and 15 CT scans (14 patients) performed within 2 days of a surgical intervention. These results give the absent cistern sign a sensitivity of 75% and a specificity of 57% when compared to the shunt isotope findings and a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 50% when compared to the surgical findings. Over 30% of the CT scans showed ventriculomegaly in the presence of a functioning shunt and, conversely, nearly 45% of the CT scans had normal or small lateral ventricles in the presence of a malfunctioning shunt.
The “absent cistern sign” appears to reliably rule out a completely blocked shunt, but is less reliable in detecting a normal or partially obstructed shunt. Ventricular size correlates poorly with LP shunt function.
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