Ventricular Peritoneal Shunts

Ventricular Peritoneal Shunts is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Ventricular peritoneal (VP) shunts are usually placed for hydrocephalus:
    • Conduit between CSF and peritoneal cavity (or right atrium)
  • Obstruction: Shunt malfunction impairs drainage of CSF:
    • Increases intracranial pressure (ICP)
    • Rate of increase in ICP determines severity
    • 30–40% mechanical malfunction rate in 1st year
  • Overdrainage syndrome:
    • Upright posture increases CSF outflow
    • Decreases ICP
    • Produces postural headache and nausea (as after lumbar puncture)
  • Infection:
    • Shunt is a foreign body
    • Staphylococcus epidermidis and other Staphylococcus species in 75% of infections
    • Gram-negative organisms also implicated
    • Multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been reported
    • Most occur soon after placement
    • Shunt removal usually required
  • Slit ventricle syndrome:
    • Prolonged overdrainage causes decreased ventricular size
    • Intermittent increases in ICP occur owing to proximal obstruction

Pediatric Considerations
  • Complications more common in children, especially neonates
  • If cranial sutures are open, CSF may accumulate without much ICP increase
  • Produces relatively nonspecific signs and symptoms:
    • Drowsy
    • Headache
    • Nausea and Vomiting


  • Shunt may be needed to treat increased ICP due to:
    • Congenital malformations
    • Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri)
    • Post CVA
    • Tumor or other mass lesions
    • Post head trauma
    • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
    • Scarring at base of brain after bacterial meningitis

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