Ventriculoperitoneal Shunting

Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunting is a neurosurgical procedure used to relieve pressure on the brain caused by the buildup of excess fluid. It is primarily used to treat hydrocephalus, a condition that occurs when cerebrospinal fluid collects in the brain’s ventricles. This puts pressure on the brain, which can cause neurologic symptoms or even brain damage. Hydrocephalus is most common in infants and older adults.

Baptist Health is nationally recognized for excellence in neurosurgical procedures, including ventriculoperitoneal shunting. We offer a full spectrum of neurosurgical care and the latest approaches to a VP shunt. Best of all, you’ll appreciate convenient appointment times, locations near you and a personalized focus to meet your needs before, during and after your procedure.

What is Ventriculoperitoneal Shunting?

During a VP shunt procedure, a small catheter, or thin flexible tube, is implanted in the brain, usually behind the ear. The tube is then run under the skin to the abdominal cavity, allowing excess fluid to drain and be reabsorbed into the bloodstream. A small pump or valve may also be attached to the catheter, and implanted behind the ear. This will automatically activate at a certain pressure or fluid volume, preventing the buildup of excess fluid.  

What Can Ventriculoperitoneal Shunting Accomplish?

VP shunting is used to relieve pressure on the brain caused by the buildup of excess fluid. It is recommended to reduce or eliminate the risk of brain damage from this excess fluid buildup, and treat related symptoms. A VP shunt may help:

  • Reduce headaches
  • Reduce or eliminate seizures
  • Improve mood
  • Improve memory, motor function and cognitive ability
  • Improve vision
  • Address lack of appetite, incontinence or excessive sleepiness

What Can I Expect During the VP Shunting Procedure?

VP shunting procedures are performed under general anesthesia, which means you will be asked to fast for 6 to 12 hours prior to surgery, and follow food or drink restrictions set by your care team.

The procedure typically takes about 90 minutes. After the area behind your ear is shaved, your surgeon will make a small incision and drill a tiny hole in your skull. One end of the catheter will be threaded into the brain where the excess fluid is collecting. The other end will be threaded under your skin, down to your abdominal cavity. In most cases, a valve or pump that can be used to regulate the volume and pressure of the fluid in your brain will connect the two ends, and will be implanted behind your ear. In some cases, an incision may also be made in the abdomen to make sure this end of the catheter is in the proper place.

VP Shunting Recovery

After your ventriculoperitoneal shunt procedure, you will be carefully monitored for at least 24 hours to make sure there are no complications from surgery, and the VP shunt is working properly. A typical hospital stay for VP shunting is two to four days.

Estimated Recovery Timeline

It is normal to have pain and discomfort around your incision areas for several days after surgery, and your doctor may prescribe or recommend over-the-counter pain medications. You will also receive instructions for caring for your surgery sites and will need to avoid strenuous activities for a short time. You should be fully recovered within a few weeks.

Ventriculoperitoneal Shunting Possible Risks

VP shunting is a very safe procedure, but as with any surgery, there are rare but serious risks. Risks associated with any surgical procedure include excessive bleeding, infection and allergic reactions to the anesthesia such as breathing difficulties, changes in heart rate, or changes in blood pressure levels. Other risks of a VP shunt include:

  • Infection in the shunt or brain
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Damage to brain tissue
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Abdominal pain

If you experience any of these symptoms or symptoms the VP shunting procedure was supposed to treat such as headaches, seizures or loss of coordination, it may indicate an infection or a malfunction of the shunt, and you should notify your doctor immediately. 

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