Using a 2-Variable method in radionuclide shuntography to predict shunt patency

Eric M. Thompson, M. D.Kate Wagner, Kassi Kronfeld, Nathan R. Selden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Object. Radionuclide shuntography interpretation is uncertain when the tracer fails to enter the ventricles but quickly drains distally or when the tracer enters the ventricles but takes longer than 15 minutes to drain distally. The purpose of this study was to aid in the clinical interpretation of a variety of shuntography results and to determine the applicability of shuntography in different patient populations. Methods. The results of 259 shuntograms were reviewed. Chi-square analysis was performed to evaluate the relationship between clinical variables and shuntography results. Two-by-two binary classification analyses were performed to determine the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value for 4 different combinatorial types of shuntography results based on 2 variables: ventricular tracer entry and distal tracer drainage. Results. Median patient age was 19 years, and 51% of patients were male. The most common presentation in patients undergoing shuntography was headache (169/254, 66.5%) with radiographically stable ventricle size. Of 227 patients with available imaging data, 163 (71.8%) presented with the same ventricle size as shown on a previous asymptomatic scan, 43 (18.9%) had larger ventricles, and 21 (9.2%) had smaller ventricles. Within 30 days of shuntography, 74 of 259 patients (28.6%) underwent surgical shunt exploration: 65 were found to have an obstructed shunt and 9 were found to have a patent shunt. Of those patients not undergoing surgery, the median length of benign clinical follow-up was 1051 days. Clinical variables were not significantly associated with shuntography results, including valve type (p = 0.180), ventricle size (p = 0.556), age (p = 0.549), distal drainage site (p = 0.098), and hydrocephalus etiology (p = 0.937). Shuntography results of patients with myelomeningocele were not dissociable from those of the group as a whole. Sensitivity to diagnose shunt failure was lowest (37.5%) but specificity was highest (97.2%) when the definition of a "normal" shuntogram included any tracer movement into the distal site within 45 minutes. Conversely, sensitivity was highest (87.5%) and specificity was lowest (51.4%) when the definition was limited exclusively to tracer entry into the ventricles and distal drainage within 15 minutes. Conclusions. Even with a stringent definition of a "normal" shuntogram, sensitivity and specificity were relatively low for a diagnostic test. Clinical variables such as valve type, ventricle size, patient age, distal drainage site, and etiology of hydrocephalus were not associated with shuntography results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1504-1507
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Hydrocephalus •
  • Radionuclide shuntogram •
  • Sensitivity •
  • Shunt obstruction
  • Specificity •

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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