Initial experience with the Codman Certas adjustable valve in the management of patients with hydrocephalus
© Watt et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012
Received: 31 May 2012
Accepted: 3 September 2012
Published: 20 September 2012
A new adjustable valve, the Codman CertasTM valve for treatment of hydrocephalus was introduced into clinical practice in January 2011. It has 8 different settings with an opening pressure varying from 36 to over 400 mm H2O at a flow rate of 20 mL/h. The 8th setting is designed to provide a "virtual off" function. The objective of this report is to describe the initial clinical experience with the CertasTM valve and evaluate clinical usage with the main focus on the portable adjustment device - Therapeutic Management System (TMS), the “virtual off” setting and compatibility with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Forty-two patients with hydrocephalus from different etiologies were treated with the CertasTM adjustable shunt system. Data regarding implantation procedures, the use of the TMS system, x-ray imaging, and MRI procedures were recorded prospectively. All patients had clinical follow-up at four weeks after implantation and every three months until a stable clinical condition was obtained.
The mean time for follow-up was 8.6 months (1–16.6). Seventy-one adjustments were performed with the TMS, 12 were problematic. Twenty-nine MRI procedures were performed and did not cause accidental resetting. Five patients were treated with the "virtual off" function for a period.
We found the CertasTM valve valuable in the treatment of hydrocephalus, usability of the TMS was high because it is small and portable, but in some cases we experienced adjustment problems with the first procedures performed by a surgeon, indicating that there is a learning curve. The "virtual off" function provided a possibility of treating over-drainage without the need for shunt ligation or other invasive procedures.
Treating patients with hydrocephalus with an implanted shunt is not always just straightforward and simple: there are occurrences of under-drainage of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) where a large ventricle and clinical symptoms of hydrocephalus continue or the shunt implantation may cause over-drainage with slit ventricles and development of subdural hygromas [1, 2]. It has been shown that adjustable valves can be useful in handling these problems [3–6]. For nearly 25 years, different types of adjustable valves have been on the market with a number of settings from 3 to 20; these valves allow the neurosurgeon to adjust the opening pressure non-invasively and thus correct the volume of CSF shunted. A new adjustable valve, The Codman Certas™ programmable valve, was approved for clinical use in Europe and the USA in 2011. It can be set to 7 different settings for drainage of CSF where the opening pressure for each valve setting varies from 26 mmH2O (setting 1) to 247 mmH2O (setting 7) at a flow rate of 20 mL/h. An 8th setting is designed to provide a “virtual off” function of the valve, with a mean opening pressure of 494 ± 34 mmH2O when flow through the valve should be at a minimum .
In this report we describe the initial clinical experience with the CertasTM valve and evaluate its clinical value with the main focus on the TMS, “virtual off” setting, and MRI conditionality in the treatment of primary and secondary hydrocephalus in a consecutive series of 42 patients.
Methods and results
Etiology of hydrocephalus and the number of patients who had adjustments of the valve setting
Etiology of hydrocephalus
Number of patients
Normal pressure hydrocephalus
Secondary to subarachnoid hemorrhage
Secondary to traumatic brain injury
Secondary to intraventricular hemorrhage
Secondary to meningitis
Giant aneurism obstruction
There were 22 first shunt implantations and 20 shunt revisions with valve exchange, 26 of the implanted systems included an anti-siphoning device and all implantation procedures were performed by one of 12 specialists in neurosurgery and standardized according to implantation of any ventriculoperitoneal shunt (VP-shunt). All patients had a clinical follow-up 4 weeks after implantation and hereafter every 3 months until the patient was in a stable condition. Data regarding implantation procedures, the use of the TMS system, x-ray imaging, and MRI procedures were recorded prospectively at the time of surgery, during clinical follow-up and at any admissions during the study period.
The mean time of follow-up was 8.6 months (1–16.6); for patients with adjustments of valve settings it was 10.3 (2.6-16.6) while patients with non-adjusted valves had a shorter follow-up of 5.9 (1–16.2) months. The implantation of Codman CertasTM shunt system is a standard procedure similar to implantation of other shunt systems, no surgical revisions related to malfunction of the valve were performed and no patients had verified shunt infections or symptoms relating to this complication.
Reasons for performing valve adjustments and number of adjustments
Reason for adjustment
Number of adjustments
Optimising clinical status due to clinical symptoms of:
Normal pressure hydrocephalus
CT- results showing large ventricles
Twenty-nine cerebral MRI´s were performed in 14 patients (6 at 3.0 T and 23 at 1.5 T), there was no accidental readjustment of the valve setting as verified with TMS and x-ray. The “virtual off” function, setting 8 was used on five occasions due to over-drainage. Three patients developed hygromas prior to implantation of a CertasTM valve after hydrocephalus treatment with fixed shunt types when the previous valve was exchanged for a CertasTM valve with initial setting 8. Two additional patients developed bilateral hygromas after implantation of the CertasTM valve. In all 5 patients setting 8 was maintained for a period until the hygromas had diminished on CT examination. Subsequently the valve setting was gradually decreased. No symptoms of hydrocephalus were detected in any of the patients during treatment with valve setting 8. X-ray verification of the valve setting was performed after MRI and after problematic adjustment procedures. The x-ray procedure for the CertasTM valve was different from other similar valve systems: the cassette is placed on the opposite side of the valve while the camera must be placed on the valve side perpendicular to the valve. The picture quality was not always optimal.
We have presented our first experiences with the new CertasTM valve including clinical advantages or disadvantages with main focus on the TMS, MRI conditionality and the “virtual off” setting.
The follow-up time for patients with adjustments of the valve setting was longer (10.3 months) than follow-up time for non-adjusted patients (5.9 months) because all newly-adjusted patients had a clinical follow-up in the out-patient clinic until the patient was in a stable condition.
We experienced problems performing adjustments with the TMS, mainly resulting in a time-consuming adjustment process, but in three known cases the valve setting was incorrect and led to over drainage and development of hygromas in two patients and severe symptoms in one patient. The problems primarily occurred with the first adjustments procedures performed by an individual surgeon, indicating that there was a learning curve. To avoid adjustment problems in the immediate post-operative period due to swelling, the valve must be tunneled under the intact skin and rest on bone and not in soft neck tissue. To avoid problems due to incorrect placement of locator and indicator tool, it is important to note that the locator tool must follow the valve for the entire length of the valve, as an incorrect position of just millimeters can lead to an incorrect valve setting reading. Furthermore, new users should be introduced to the TMS by an experienced user and trained in the adjustment procedure.
Setting 8, the “virtual off” function is a key function in the CertasTM valve, and in all of the patients where we used setting 8, they avoided one or more invasive procedures that would otherwise have been necessary. We recommend that a specific procedure and instruction for x-ray of CertasTM valve is written and followed. Improvements could also be made in the design of the valve in placement of radiopaque markers to make it easier to verify valve settings on x-ray images. We experienced no accidental change in the valve setting after MRI procedures. MRI compatibility would be of great value and this issue must be investigated further. The valve produced MRI artifacts, but they can be reduced by appropriate selection of pulse sequence parameters  and only constitute a problem when the area of interest is very close to the valve. This can be allowed for by siting the valve appropriately at surgery.
Relevant individual features of adjustable valves
Unintentional adjustments during MRI
Pressure range (mm H2O)
Number of settings
”Virtual off” function
We found the CertasTM valve valuable in the treatment of hydrocephalus, usability of the TMS was high because it is small and portable, but in some cases we experienced adjustment problems when surgeons were inexperienced. New users should be introduced to the TMS by an experienced user and trained in the adjustment procedure. The “virtual off” function provided the possibility of treating over-drainage without the need for shunt ligation or other invasive procedures. Twenty-nine MRI procedures caused no accidental resetting of the valve, but MRI compatibility needs further investigation.
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