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Using a burr hole valve prevents proximal shunt failure in infants and toddlers

Chiu-Hao Hsu, Sheng-Che Chou, Shih-Hung Yang, Ming-Chieh Shih, and Meng-Fai Kuo


Proximal malfunction is the most common cause of ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt failure in young children. In this study, the authors sought to determine factors that affect the migration rate of ventricular catheters in hydrocephalic children who undergo shunt implantation in the first 3 years of life.


The authors reviewed the medical records and imaging studies of newly diagnosed and treated hydrocephalic children who were younger than 3 years. Patients who received VP shunt insertion through the parieto-occipital route were not included. In total, 78 patients were found who underwent VP shunt insertion between December 2006 and April 2017. Eighteen patients were excluded due to mortality, short follow-up period (< 1 year), and lack of imaging follow-up. The age, sex, etiology of hydrocephalus, initial length of ventricular catheter, valve type (burr hole vs non–burr hole), time to ventricular catheter migration, subsequent revision surgery, and follow-up period were analyzed. The diagnosis of a migrated ventricular catheter was made when serial imaging follow-up showed progressive withdrawal of the catheter tip from the ventricle, with the catheter shorter than 4 mm inside the ventricle, or progressive deviation of the ventricular catheter toward the midline or anterior ventricular wall.


Sixty patients were enrolled. The mean age was 5.1 months (range 1–30 months). The mean follow-up period was 50.9 months (range 13–91 months). Eight patients had ventricular catheter migration, and in 7 of these 8 patients a non–burr hole valve was used. In the nonmigration group, a non–burr hole valve was used in only 6 of the 52 patients. Six of the 8 patients with catheter migration needed second surgeries, which included removal of the shunt due to disconnection in 1 patient. The remaining 2 patients with shunt migration were followed for 91 and 46 months, respectively, without clinical and imaging changes. The authors found that patient age at catheter insertion, ventricular catheter length, and the use of a burr hole valve were protective factors against migration. After ventricular catheter length and patient age at catheter insertion were treated as confounding variables and adjusted with multivariable Weibull proportional hazards regression, the use of a burr hole valve shunt remained a protective factor.


The use of burr hole valves is a protective factor against ventricular catheter migration when the shunt is inserted via a frontal route. The authors suggest the use of a burr hole valve along with a frontal entry point in hydrocephalic children younger than 3 years to maintain long-term shunt function.