Improvement of cortical morphology in infantile hydrocephalic animals after ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement.

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As a sequel to our previous descriptions of the pathological changes induced by hydrocephalus in the infantile cerebral cortex, the study presented here has evaluated the effects of surgical decompression on cortical cytology and cytoarchitecture. Hydrocephalus was induced in 14 kittens by the intracisternal injection of kaolin at 4 to 11 days of age. Nine of these hydrocephalic animals received low-pressure ventriculoperitoneal shunts at 9 to 15 days after kaolin injection; these animals were monitored preoperatively and postoperatively by ultrasound and were killed at various postshunt intervals up to 30 days. Five normal or saline-injected animals served as age-matched controls. At the time of shunt placement, the ventricular index confirmed that all recipient animals had attained moderate or severe degrees of ventriculomegaly. Within 3 days after shunt placement, the size of the lateral ventricles had decreased to control levels and was accompanied by rapid and dramatic improvements in behavior and skull ossification. When the animals were killed, gross inspection revealed that about half of the animals exhibited mild to moderate ventriculomegaly, with cortical mantles 50 to 80% their normal thickness. Tissue from frontal (primary motor), parietal (association), and occipital (primary visual) cortical areas was processed for light microscopic analysis. Pyknotic or dark shrunken neurons, which are found typically in hydrocephalic brains, were observed only occasionally in the cortex of shunted animals. Gliosis and mild edema were prevalent, however, in the periventricular white matter. The laminae of the cerebral cortex could be identified in all shunted animals. In those animals with mild residual ventriculomegaly, the entire cortical mantle was somewhat compressed, as evidenced by an increased packing density of neurons. Furthermore, the somata of some neurons were disoriented. Overall, these results indicate that most of the morphological characteristics of the cerebral cortex are preserved after surgical decompression and suggest that ventriculoperitoneal shunts may prevent neuronal damage and/or promote neuronal repair.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Medicine

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