Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt placement remains the mainstay treatment for pediatric hydrocephalus. These devices have a relatively high complication and failure rate, often requiring multiple revisions. The authors present a single institution's experience of pediatric patients treated with VP shunts. With an average follow-up time of 20 years, this study is among the longest reports of VP shunt revision in the literature to date. Hydrocephalus origins, shunt revision rates, and causes of shunt failure are described. Patients who underwent their first shunt revision more than 10 years after initial shunt placement were also explored.
A retrospective chart review was performed on all pediatric patients who underwent VP shunt placement from January 1990 through November 1996 at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Only patients who had at least 15 years of follow-up since their initial shunting procedure were included.
A total of 234 procedures were performed on 64 patients, with a mean follow-up of 19.9 years. Patients ranged from a few days to 17.2 years old when they received their original shunt, with a median age of 4 months; 84.5% of the patients required 1 or more shunt revisions and 4.7% required 10 or more. Congenital defects, Chiari Type II malformations, tumors, and intraventricular hemorrhage were the most common causes of hydrocephalus. Overall, patients averaged 2.66 revisions, with proximal (27%) and distal (15%) catheter occlusion, disconnection (11%), and infection (9%) comprising the most common reasons for shunt malfunction. Notably, 12.5% of patients did not require their first shunt revision until more than 10 years after initial device placement, a previously undescribed finding due to the short follow-up duration in previous studies.
This long-term retrospective analysis of pediatric VP shunt placement revealed a relatively high rate of complications with need for shunt revision as late as 17 years after initial placement. Catheter occlusion represented a significant percentage of shunt failures. Cerebrospinal fluid shunting has a propensity for mechanical failure and patients with VP shunts should receive follow-up through the transition to adulthood.