Maternal shunt dependency: Implications for obstetric care, neurosurgical management, and pregnancy outcomes and a review of selected literature

Nancy K. Bradley, Ann Marie Liakos, James Patterson McAllister, Gary Magram, Steve Kinsman, Marty K. Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Because more women with cerebrospinal fluid shunts are surviving to child-bearing age, neurosurgeons, obstetricians, and other health care professionals require information about the care of these patients, especially during pregnancy and delivery. The purpose of this study was to gather comprehensive data from women with shunts regarding their clinical histories during and immediately after pregnancy. The following questions were addressed. 1) How does maternal shunt dependency influence the course of pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes? 2) What neurosurgical complications characterize this population of patients? 3) What complications of shunt dependency influence obstetric management, including prenatal testing and delivery? METHODS: A total of 37 respondents (age, 18-41 yr), accounting for 77 pregnancies, completed a questionnaire providing information on maternal background and medical history, shunt performance during pregnancy, management of delivery, pregnancy outcomes, and unusual complications. RESULTS: Fifty-six pregnancies resulted in live births; of these, 47 occurred in women with ventriculoperitoneal shunts. Three women underwent therapeutic abortions, 1 experienced preterm delivery, and 8 experienced 17 miscarriages. Four women experienced seizures during pregnancy, five reported third-trimester headaches, and eight described abdominal pains during the first and third trimesters. Four babies were diagnosed as having congenital defects. Shunt malfunctions and revisions occurred 10 times in 7 women, either during pregnancy or within 6 months after delivery. No acute malfunctions occurred during delivery. Forty-seven cases, representing 84% of all pregnancies, exhibited no shunt malfunctions or revisions. CONCLUSION: This study extends previous observations to a larger population of shunt-dependent mothers. The results suggest that maternal shunt dependency entails a relatively high incidence of complications but that proper care of these patients can lead to normal pregnancies and deliveries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-460
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1998


  • Hydrocephalus
  • Maternal
  • Obstetric
  • Pregnancy
  • Prognosis
  • Revision
  • Shunt


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