A ventriculoperitoneal shunt operation is surgery to insert a drainage tube (catheter) into the brain. The tube runs into the abdominal cavity. This tube is used to move extra fluid in the brain to the abdomen where it can be absorbed. The entire tube is under the skin and not visible.
This type of shunt is used to treat
, an condition that results in excess fluid in the brain. Excess fluid can cause increased pressure. This pressure can damage sensitive brain tissues. The shunt drains the excess fluid and reduces pressure on the brain.
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your child's doctor will review potential problems, like: Shunt failureBrain swellingBlood clot or bleeding in the brainInfection in the shunt or brainDamage to brain tissueReaction to the anesthesia
At your child’s doctor appointment before the surgery, the doctor may: Do a neurological exam—This is to find out how your child’s nerves work. It involves evaluating mental status, as well as motor and sensory abilities.
of the brain—Images of your child’s body will help the doctor plan the surgery.
Answer any question that you haveTalk to your doctor about your child's medications. Your child may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 2 weeks before the procedure.Instruct your child to not eat or drink before the surgery—Your child’s doctor will give you instructions about fasting based on your child’s age. Fasting may range from 6-12 hours before surgery.
will be used. It will block any pain and keep your child asleep during the surgery. It is given through an IV in the hand or arm.
A breathing tube will be placed to help your child breathe during surgery. The scalp and abdomen are cleaned with antiseptic. Small incisions will be made in the scalp and abdomen. A small hole is made in the skull. A catheter is passed through the hole into your child’s brain. Then, the catheter is tunneled under the skin down to the abdomen. This end of the catheter is put into the abdominal cavity. The incisions are closed and a dressing is applied to each area.
After the surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room for observation.
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. Your child will be given medication to manage pain after the procedure.
Your child may be in the hospital for 3-7 days. Your child may stay longer if complications arise.
Your child may need to lay flat for up to 24 hours after surgery.Your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and brain status will be monitored closely.Your child will receive nutrition through an IV until he or she is ready to eat and drink.The shunt will be checked to make sure it is working.Antibiotics may be given. Pain medication will be given as needed.
During your child's stay, the hospital staff will also take steps to reduce the chance of infection, such as: Washing their handsWearing gloves or masksKeeping your child's incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your child's chance of infection, such as: Washing both you and your child's hands often, and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the sameReminding your child's healthcare providers to wear gloves or masksNot allowing others to touch your child's incision
When your child is at home, do the following for a smooth recovery: Go to physical therapy appointments as directed.Keep track of your child's growth. Longer shunts may be needed as your child develops.Be sure to follow your child's doctor's instructions.
After your child leaves the hospital, contact the doctor if any of the following occurs: Symptoms that went away returnStiff neckHeadacheIrritabilitySigns of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or any discharge from the incision siteVomiting—may be a sign of the shunt not workingPain that is not controlled with the medications your child has been givenVision problemsBeing very sleepyConfusionDevelopmental delaysNot eating or drinking enough
Call for emergency medical services right away for: Fast breathing or trouble breathingBlue or gray skin colorNot waking up or not interactingNot wanting to be heldSeizures
If you think your child has an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
About normal pressure hydrocephalus. National Hydrocephalus Association website. Available at:
http://www.hydroassoc.org/docs/AboutNormalPressureHydrocephalus-A_Book_for_Adults_and_Their_Families.pdf. Accessed December 9, 2014.
NINDS Hydrocephalus information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hydrocephalus/hydrocephalus.htm. Updated April 16, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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