Relationship between anterior fontanelle pressure measurements and clinical signs in infantile hydrocephalus

P. W. Hanlo, R. H. Gooskens, J. A. Faber, R. J. Peters, A. A. Hermsen, I. J. Nijhuis, W. P. Vandertop, C. A. Tulleken, J. Willemse

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The treatment of choice in progressive hydrocephalus is drainage of cerebrospinal fluid in order to reduce elevated intracranial pressure (ICP). Defining the right moment for surgical intervention, however, in a hydrocephalic infant on the basis of clinical signs alone can be a difficult task. Clinical signs of raised ICP are known to be unreliable and sometimes even misleading. In the present study, the relationship between long-term anterior fontanelle pressure (AFP) measurements and clinical signs was investigated in 37 infants with hydrocephalus. The decision as to whether to operate or not was based on clinical signs alone; AFP values were not taken into account. There was an overall difference between the non-operated group and the preoperative measurements in the operated group, and also between the preoperative and the postoperative measurements in the latter, in regard to both AFP measurements and clinical signs. Almost all preoperative AFP values were increased. The direct correlation (phi) between most individual clinical signs and AFP levels, however, was low (phi = 0.15-0.41). The clinical sign "tense fontanelle" showed the best correlation with the AFP levels (phi = 0.75). Furthermore, using logistic regression analysis, no combination of clinical signs could be found which reliably predicted the AFP. The relationship between the AFP pressure variables and clinical signs was also examined. The pathological A-waves occurred only in the presence of raised (baseline) AFP, a situation in which considerably more frequent B-waves were observed as well. It was concluded that clinical signs of raised ICP in infantile hydrocephalus are not very reliable and AFP monitoring can therefore provide valuable information on intracranial dynamics in patients with dubious neurological manifestations of progressive hydrocephalus
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-209
Number of pages10
JournalChild s nervous system : ChNS
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1996


  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus/blood
  • Infant
  • Intracranial Pressure
  • Male
  • Skull/physiopathology
  • alpha-Fetoproteins/analysis

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