Serial neuropsychological assessment and evidence of shunt malfunction in spina bifida: A longitudinal case study

Melissa A. Matson, E. Mark Mahone, T. Andrew Zabel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Myelomeningocele is often accompanied by hydrocephalus (MMH), making it a potentially unstable neurological condition requiring shunt placement and possible revisions. Serial neuropsychological assessment is an important tool in monitoring children with MMH, as cognitive changes can indicate shunt malfunction and hydrocephalus. We present the case of a girl with MMH who had five neuropsychological assessments (ages 5, 7, 11, 12, and 14). Despite a lack of overt neurological symptoms or report of behavioral decline, testing at age 11 revealed decline in multiple neurobehavioral domains, and imaging at that time showed increased hydrocephalus, requiring shunt revision. Subsequent neuropsychological assessment conducted after a 2-year period of medical stability showed improvement and/or a return to baseline levels in some skill areas (i.e., working memory, verbal memory, visuomotor integration, and sustained attention), yet more lasting impairments in others (i.e., Verbal IQ, processing speed, organization, and response inhibition). These lasting cognitive deficits potentially impact independent completion of complex medical self-care tasks. This pattern of recovery highlights vulnerability of brain systems supporting executive/unctions in children with hydrocephalus and shunt failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-332
Number of pages18
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2005


  • Executive functions
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Myelomeningocele
  • Shunt failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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