Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt for Hydrocephalus

A ventriculoperitoneal shunt treats hydrocephalus by diverting (shunting) the excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain to the abdomen and its membrane (peritoneum) to be reabsorbed.

What Is a Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt?

A ventriculoperitoneal shunt (VP shunt) is a small drainage catheter that is put in place during a neurosurgical procedure. By regulating the oversupply of CSF, the VP shunt regulates the intracranial pressure.

A cerebral shunt is inserted into one of the four ventricles of the brain and then drains into another part of the body:

  • Most often the abdomen: ventriculoperitoneal shunt
  • But the shunt can also drain excess CSF to right atrium of the heart: ventriculoatrial shunt
  • Or the pleural cavity of the lung: ventriculopleural shunt

What Are Hydrocephalus Symptoms?

If you are considering a ventriculoperitoneal shunt to treat hydrocephalus in your child or loved one, you may already be familiar with some of the symptoms of hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus symptoms can vary from person to person, and the below list is just a few of the signs:

The most discernible sign of hydrocephalus in babies is an abnormally large head size. Other symptoms infants may exhibit include:

  • Abnormal lethargy
  • Eyes that are cast down
  • Fontanel (the space between a newborn’s skull bones) that is swollen

Toddlers may experience headaches and other symptoms such as:

  • Developmental delays or loss of previously acquired skills
  • Irritability
  • Nausea or vomiting

Children and adults whose skulls are not able to expand to accommodate the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid may also experience headaches and other symptoms such as:

  • Vision problems
  • Decline in work or school
  • Balance and coordination issues
  • Vomiting

Adults with normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) may also experience headaches, loss of balance, difficulty walking, and incontinence.

Hydrocephalus that isn’t treated in a timely manner can cause brain damage, so early diagnosis and proper treatment are critical to preventing neurological impairment.

Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt for Hydrocephalus at NSPC in New York

Each patient is unique. At NSPC, our multidisciplinary team of surgeons works together to provide you the best possible outcome. If your child needs surgery, our New York pediatric neurosurgery team is experienced in treating a wide range of brain and spine conditions such as:

Along with our highly skilled pediatric neurosurgeons, our doctors are board certified, fellowship trained, and leading physicians in the NY area, often serving as chiefs of neurosurgery in some of Long Island’s best hospitals.

Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt Procedures

The VP shunt operation usually takes about an hour. In preparation, the patient is given anesthesia and, if needed, some of the scalp is shaved.

After a small incision in the skin, a small burr hole is made in the skull. A thin narrow catheter is guided through the hole and to the selected cavity of the brain. Another catheter is guided to the abdomen and the shunt valve is attached. This valve will regulate the amount of CSF in the brain and send the excess to the abdomen—or other cavity if it’s another type of cerebral shunt operation. A few days to a week of recovery in the hospital is usually needed.

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