Factors associated with 30-day ventriculoperitoneal shunt failure in pediatric and adult patients

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The aim of this study was to provide a comprehensive benchmark of 30-day ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt failure rates for a single institution over a 5-year study period for both adult and pediatric patients, to compare this with the results in previously published literature, and to establish factors associated with shunt failure.


A retrospective database search was undertaken to identify all VP shunt operations performed in a single, regional neurosurgical unit during a 5-year period. Data were collected regarding patient age, sex, origin of hydrocephalus, and whether the shunt was a primary or secondary shunt. Operative notes were used to ascertain the type of valve inserted, which components of the shunt were adjusted/replaced (in revision cases), level of seniority of the most senior surgeon who participated in the operation, and number of surgeons involved in the operation. Where appropriate and where available, postoperative imaging was assessed for grade of shunt placement, using a recognized grading system. Univariate and multivariate models were used to establish factors associated with early (30-day) shunt failure.


Six hundred eighty-three VP shunt operations were performed, of which 321 were pediatric and 362 were adult. The median duration of postoperative follow-up for nonfailed shunts (excluding deaths) was 1263 days (range 525–2226 days). The pediatric 30-day shunt failure rates in the authors’ institution were 8.8% for primary shunts and 23.4% for revisions. In adults, the 30-day shunt failure rates are 17.7% for primary shunts and 25.6% for revisions. In pediatric procedures, the number of surgeons involved in the operating theater was significantly associated with shunt failure rate. In adults, the origin of hydrocephalus was a statistically significant variable. Primary shunts lasted longer than revision shunts, irrespective of patient age.


A benchmark of 30-day failures is presented and is consistent with current national databases and previously published data by other groups. The number of surgeons involved in shunt operations and the origin of the patient’s hydrocephalus should be described in future studies and should be controlled for in any prospective work. The choice of shunt valve was not a significant predictor of shunt failure. Most previous studies on shunts have concentrated on primary shunts, but the high rate of early shunt failure in revision cases (in both adults and children) is perhaps where future research efforts should be concentrated.

ABBREVIATIONS BMI = body mass index; CI = confidence interval; EVD = external ventricular drain; IIH = idiopathic intracranial hypertension; NPH = normal pressure hydrocephalus; OR = odds ratio; VP = ventriculoperitoneal.

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Article Information

Correspondence Ian Anderson: Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds, United Kingdom. ian.anderson4@nhs.net.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online March 9, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2017.8.JNS17399.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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    Kaplan-Meier survival curves for primary and secondary shunts in pediatric patients. Figure is available in color online only.

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    Kaplan-Meier survival curves for primary and secondary shunts in adult patients. Figure is available in color online only.




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