Treatment of posthaemorrhagic ventricular dilatation by early repeated cerebrospinal fluid taps was compared with conservative management in a randomised controlled trial of 157 infants in 15 centres. Thirty infants died and six moved abroad before follow up. During the first 14 days after randomisation, the early treatment group had five times more taps, and 12 times more cerebrospinal fluid removed. Infection of the cerebrospinal fluid occurred in seven of the early treated and four of the conservatively managed infants. Of survivors, 62% in both groups ultimately had ventricular shunts. Neurodevelopmental assessment of survivors at 12 months was carried out by a single experienced examiner. Of survivors, 103 (85%) had abnormal neuromotor signs and 88 (73%) had disabilities. There was no detectable benefit of early treatment for children who did not have parenchymal lesions at the time they entered the trial. Nearly all those with parenchymal lesions had neuromotor impairment, but early treatment was associated with a significant reduction in other impairments.
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