Object. Although a cerebrospinal fluid shunt procedure is one of the most frequently performed operations in pediatric neurosurgery, the infection rate due to the procedure is not low. The authors have hypothesized that the key to reducing surgical shunt infections is to reduce bacteria from the operating field and wound. This hypothesis has been tested in a prospective nonrandomized controlled study at the authors' department. Methods. Beginning in August 2006, during shunt procedures the authors began routinely irrigating the operating field and wound with amikacin containing saline, using a jet of fluid from a syringe. Prior to this new routine no irrigation techniques were used, providing an adequate control group for comparing the effect of the irrigation technique. Data obtained in all patients undergoing shunt insertions or revisions for hydrocephalus performed between October 1, 2003, and November 30, 2007, were reviewed. Results. A total of 101 shunt procedures were performed in 63 patients (34 females and 29 males) during the study period. The mean age of all patients was 48.2 ± 61.8 months. A total of 61 shunt procedures were performed before August 2006, and 40 were performed after August 2006. There was no statistical difference between the ages of patients in the 2 groups (p = 0.64). Eight total infections occurred during the 90 days of the postoperative period (7.9% overall infection rate). All 8 infections occurred before implementation of the irrigation technique (13.1% infection rate), but no infections were noted after beginning use of the irrigation procedure (0% infection rate). There was a statistically significant difference in the infection rate between the 2 groups (p = 0.021). Conclusions. Use of an irrigation strategy aimed at reducing bacteria from the operating field and wound can be considered an effective procedure for preventing shunt infection.
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