A ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt placement is surgery to insert a plastic tube to drain excess fluid from the brain and into the abdomen where it can be absorbed.
The shunt is placed to treat hydrocephalus. This is a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in spaces in the brain called ventricles. Too much of this fluid puts pressure on the brain.
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Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
You will be given general anesthesia. You will be asleep.
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. The incisions will be closed with staples or stiches. A bandage will be placed over the areas.
About 2 hours
Pain and headaches are common in the first 1 to 2 weeks. Medicine and home care can help.
You will be in the hospital for 2 to 7 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
After the procedure, the staff may:
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
It will take a few weeks for the incisions to fully heal. Physical activity will be limited for 4 to 6 weeks. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay your return to work.
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical services right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation
Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada
About your ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt surgery. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website. Available at: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/about-your-ventriculoperitoneal-vp-shunt-surgery. Accessed September 28, 2021.
Hydrocephalus in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hydrocephalus-in-adults. Accessed September 28, 2021.
Ventriculo-peritoneal shunt. University of Rochester Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/neurosurgery/for-patients/treatments/ventriculoperitoneal-shunt.aspx. Accessed September 28, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 9/28/2021