Inflammation and obstruction of distal catheter slits in ventriculoperitoneal shunts: likely role of graphite

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  • 1 Department of Pathology, University of Manitoba;
  • 2 Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba;
  • 3 SharedHealth Manitoba;
  • 4 Manitoba Institute for Materials, University of Manitoba;
  • 5 Section of Neurosurgery, University of Manitoba and Health Sciences Centre; and
  • 6 Manitoba Neurosurgery Laboratory, Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Mannitoba, Canada
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OBJECTIVE

Tissue reactions that contribute to obstruction of peritoneal catheters in ventriculoperitoneal shunt systems are not well characterized. Several recent rapid obstructions in children prompted a retrospective quality assurance review.

METHODS

The authors conducted a detailed investigation of 22 surgically explanted peritoneal shunt catheters and 8 autopsy cases with documented distal shunt obstruction. Patients’ medical histories were reviewed, and the catheters and/or tissues were subjected to conventional histological and immunohistochemical evaluations. In addition, 3 cases were subjected to electron microscopic examination including elemental analysis.

RESULTS

The majority of symptomatic obstructions were associated with distal slit catheters (17 slit, 3 open-end, and 2 unknown type). Among the autopsy cases, deaths were attributed to shunt failure in 2 cases of slit catheter obstruction, 1 case of open-end catheter obstruction, and 1 case of catheter withdrawal from the peritoneal cavity. The early tissue response consisted of a predominantly T lymphocyte accumulation with phagocytosis of graphite particles by macrophages. This is associated with proliferation of fibroblasts, mesothelial cells, and blood vessels, which can grow through the slits and occlude the catheter lumen. As the inflammation subsides after approximately 1 year, the tissue plug becomes collagenized and calcified.

CONCLUSIONS

This study, supported by experimental literature in other organ systems, indicates that graphite used to coat the slit openings of distal catheters from ventriculoperitoneal shunts likely predisposes to obstruction. Neurosurgeons and manufacturers should consider the potential negative consequences of this shunt design. The authors concur with previous recommendations that slit-valve distal catheters should not be used for ventriculoperitoneal shunting unless they can be proven safe and efficacious in a controlled trial.

ABBREVIATIONS EDS = energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy; PMDS = polydimethylsiloxane; SEM = scanning electron microscopy; VP = ventriculoperitoneal.

Supplementary Materials

    • pdf Supplemental Tables 1–2 (PDF 426 KB)

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Marc R. Del Bigio: University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada. marc.delbigio@umanitoba.ca.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online September 27, 2019; DOI: 10.3171/2019.6.JNS191082.

Disclosures In the past, Dr. Del Bigio received consultation fees from several manufacturers to perform histological evaluations of tissue responses to shunt catheters. These manufacturers were Heyer-Schulte Neurocare (1996–1997), Johnson & Johnson/Codman (1997–2001), and Medtronic (2002–2008).

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