Patricia Griffin Kellicker, BSN
A ventriculoperitoneal shunt operation is a surgery where a doctor inserts 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
hydrocephalus, an condition that results in excess in the brain. Extra fluid can cause increased pressure. This pressure can damage sensitive brain tissues. The shunt drains the extra fluid and reduces pressure on the brain.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your child's doctor will review potential problems, like:
At your child’s doctor appointment before the surgery, the doctor may:
will be used. It will block any pain and keep your child asleep during the surgery. It is given through an IV (needle) 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. The doctor will make small incisions 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. If all is well, the breathing tube will likely be removed there. Your child will be moved to a hospital room to recover.
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. Your child will be given medication to relieve pain or soreness during recovery.
Your child may be in the hospital for 3-7 days. Your child’s doctor may choose to keep him longer if complications arise.
During your child's stay, the hospital staff will also take steps to reduce the chance of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your child's chance of infection, such as:
When your child is at home, do the following for a smooth recovery:
After your child leaves the hospital, contact the doctor if any of the following occurs:
Call for emergency medical services right away for:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Canadian Paediatric Society
Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Canada
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 September 17, 2009.
Neff DM. Discharge instructions for hydrocephalus. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/pointOfCare/perc-about. Updated March 24, 2009. Accessed date September 17, 2009.
NINDS Hydrocephalus information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hydrocephalus/hydrocephalus.htm. Accessed September 17, 2009.
Professional Guide to Diseases. 9th ed. Ambler, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009.
Ventriculoperitoneal shunt. Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience website. Available at:
http://www.jeffersonhospital.org/rx_files/neurosurgery/venshunt9943.pdf. Accessed September 17, 2009.
Last reviewed December 2013 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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