A ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt placement is surgery to insert a draining device from inside the skull to the abdomen. It allows excess fluid to drain from the brain into the abdomen. The fluid can be reabsorbed in the abdomen.
The interior of the brain has 4 spaces called ventricles. The ventricles hold a fluid that bathes and cushions the brain and spinal cord. Certain health conditions and injuries can cause an excess amount of this fluid, called hydrocephalus. Excess fluid creates too much pressure and can lead to brain damage.
VP shunt placement is done to treat hydrocephalus. Half of the ventriculoperitoneal shunts that are placed can successfully drain the excess fluid.
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Smoking may increase your risk of complications.
The doctor may do the following:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 2 weeks before the procedure.
Before the procedure, you should:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during surgery.
The hair over the area will be shaved. A small incision will be made in the scalp. It may be just past the hairline, on back of the head, or behind the ear. A small hole is then made in the skull. A tube is passed through the hole into a ventricle. A valve is placed on the tube to manage the flow of fluid. A small incision may be made behind the ear to help pass the tube. Another tube is attached to the other side of the valve and is guided under the skin of the skull until it reaches the abdomen. A small incision will also be made in the abdomen to help guide the tube into the correct place in the abdomen. After the tube is in place, the incisions are closed.
After the operation, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation.
About 2 hours
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
This is done in a hospital. The usual length of stay is 2-7 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
To help with your recovery at home:
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation
Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada
Ventricular shunt. Encyclopedia of Surgery website. Available at: http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/St-Wr/Ventricular-Shunt.html. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Ventriculoperitoneal shunt. NeuroSurgery PA website. Available at: http://www.neurosurgerypa.com/procedures/Ventriculoperitoneal_Shunt.html. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Ventriculo-peritoneal shunt. University of Rochester Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/neurosurgery/for-patients/treatments/ventriculoperitoneal-shunt.aspx. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 12/20/2014