Posttraumatic Hydrocephalus as a Confounding Influence on Brain Injury Rehabilitation: Incidence, Clinical Characteristics, and Outcomes

Published:September 23, 2016DOI:



      To describe incidence, clinical characteristics, complications, and outcomes in posttraumatic hydrocephalus (PTH) after traumatic brain injury (TBI) for patients treated in an inpatient rehabilitation program.


      Cohort study with retrospective comparative analysis.


      Inpatient rehabilitation hospital.


      All patients admitted for TBI from 2009 to 2013 diagnosed with PTH (N=59), defined as ventriculomegaly, delayed clinical recovery discordant with injury severity, hydrocephalus symptoms, or positive lumbar puncture results.



      Main Outcome Measures

      Primary measures were incidence of PTH and patient and injury characteristics. Secondary measures included frequency and timing of ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt, related complications, emergence from and duration of posttraumatic amnesia (PTA), Rancho Los Amigos Scale (RLAS) score, and FIM score at rehabilitation admission and discharge.


      Of 701 patients with TBI admitted, 59 (8%) were diagnosed with PTH. Of these, the median age was 25 years, with 73% being men. At initial presentation, 52 (88%) did not follow commands. Fifty-two (90%) patients with PTH had a VP shunt placed. Median time from injury to shunt placement was 69 (range, 9–366) days. Seven (12%) patients with PTH experienced postsurgical seizure, 3 (6%) had shunt infection, and 7 (12%) had shunt malfunction. Thirty-six (61%) patients with PTH emerged from PTA during rehabilitation. Median total FIM score at rehabilitation admission was 20 (range, 18–76), and at discharge it was 43 (range, 18–118). Injury severity predicted outcome at rehabilitation admission, whereas shunt timing predicted outcome at rehabilitation discharge.


      Incidence of PTH was observed in 8% of patients with TBI in inpatient rehabilitation. Earlier shunting predicted improved outcome during rehabilitation. Future studies should prospectively examine clinical decision rules, type, and timing of intervention and the coeffectiveness of rehabilitation treatment on outcomes.


      List of abbreviations:

      CSF (cerebrospinal fluid), PTA (posttraumatic amnesia), PTH (posttraumatic hydrocephalus), RLAS (Rancho Los Amigos Scale), TBI (traumatic brain injury), VP (ventriculoperitoneal)
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