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ventriculoperitoneal shunt

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Ventriculoperitoneal shunt

Alternative Names 
VP shunt

Ventriculoperitoneal shunt is a surgical procedure in which a tube or catheter is inserted into the ventricles, or cavities, in the brain to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid into the abdomen.

Who is a candidate for the procedure? 
This procedure is performed on persons who have enlarged ventricles as a result of increased fluid in the brain. The procedure is commonly performed on infants with hydrocephalus, also known as water on the brain. However, it may be performed in other persons with brain tumours, normal pressure hydrocephalus, or head injuries.

How is the procedure performed? 
A small incision is made just behind and above the right ear. A hole is drilled in the skull, and the covering of the brain called the dura is opened. A plastic tube or catheter is placed into the ventricle. A second incision is made in the right side of the abdomen and a second catheter is placed in the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity. A tunnel is made under the skin between the two incisions and the second catheter is brought up to the first catheter. The two catheters are then attached to a one-way valve. This allows the fluid to drain when the pressure in the brain becomes too high. The two incisions are closed.

What happens right after the procedure? 
After the operation, the person usually becomes more alert and aware of surroundings. There is usually improvement in the person's ability to walk.

What happens later at home? 
There is no special care required other than watching for signs of infection. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

What are the potential complications after the procedure? 
Infection of the shunt may occur. This usually requires removal of the shunt. Shunts that do not work properly may need to be changed, replaced, or removed.

Author: James Warson, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 11/1/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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