Implanted ventricular shunts in the United States: the billion-dollar-a-year cost of hydrocephalus treatment
Objective: To characterize admissions related to ventricular shunts in the year 2000 in terms of diagnoses, procedures, socioeconomic status, and other related data.
Methods: The Nationwide Inpatient Sample database (year 2000) was analyzed retrospectively. We reviewed 7.45 million patient admissions for primary International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, procedure codes 023 to 0243 (ventricular shunts to peritoneal, atrial, pleural, and urinary systems for initial placement, revision, and removal); admissions listing ventriculostomy placement (code 022) were excluded from analysis.
Results: Five thousand five hundred seventy-four admissions were identified. Admission sources primarily were routine (58.8%) and the emergency department (32.4%). Admission types primarily were elective (43.3%), emergent (33.2%), and urgent (21.9%). The top three primary diagnoses treated were shunt malfunction (40.7%), noncommunicating hydrocephalus (16.6%), and communicating hydrocephalus (13.2%). Shunt infection was the primary diagnosis in 7.2% of admissions. Age frequency of admissions was nonparametric, being highest for infants; the average stay was 8.4 +/- 0.2 days (standard error range, 0-243 d). The most common procedures were ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement (43.4%) and ventricular shunt replacement (42.8%); ventricular shunt removal occurred in 7.3% of admissions, whereas ventricle-to-thorax (0.6%), ventricle-to-circulatory system (0.5%), and ventricle-to-urinary system (0.05%) shunts were rare. Average cost was $35,816 +/- $810 (standard error range, $137-$814,748). Primary payers primarily were private insurers (43.8%), Medicare (26.0%), and Medicaid (24.5%). Disposition mainly was routine (78.4%, with home health care in 6.5%), and inpatient mortality was 2.7%. There was no socioeconomic disproportion in treatment with respect to average household income.
Conclusion: Ventricular shunts as primary procedures constitute a significant medical and economic problem.