Flow characteristics of cerebrospinal fluid shunt tubing: Laboratory investigation

Joseph T. Cheatle, Alexis N. Bowder, Sandeep K. Agrawal, Michael D. Sather, Leslie C. Hellbusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Object. Cerebrospinal fluid shunt systems malfunction for a multitude of reasons, including malpostitioning, obstruction of the ventricular or distal catheter, obstruction of the shunt valve, and catheter disruptions or disconnections. The goal of this study was to examine the hydrodynamic resistance and flow in new and explanted catheters and also in catheters with 1 or 2 straight connectors. Methods. Explanted catheters of multiple lengths, 2-piece catheters, 3-piece catheters, and new catheters were attached to a proximal and distal manometer. A flask with artificial CSF attached to the proximal end provided flow. The flow was allowed to stabilize over 1 hour; then the change in pressure between the proximal and distal end of the catheter was measured. Results. The resistance to flow was calculated for new, never-implanted catheters and compared with the resistance of explanted distal shunt catheters. The resistance of the new catheters was examined after the addition of 1 and 2 straight connectors. Explanted catheters exhibited a slight increase in the resistance to flow of artificial CSF compared with new catheters. Two-piece and 3-piece catheters had a significant increase in resistance to flow compared with new catheters. For all catheters, resistance to flow increased as length increased (new, p = 0.01; explanted, p = 0.009; 1 connector, p = 0.01; 2 connectors, p = 0.03). In this paper, effective diameter is defined as the available cross-sectional area of catheter contacted by the artificial CSF. For new and explanted catheters, a decrease in the effective diameter of the catheter was associated with an increase in the resistance to flow of artificial CSF (new, p = 0.1083; explanted, p = 0.0091). However, after the addition of 1 or 2 connectors, an inverse trend was observed: resistance to flow increased with effective diameter. Conclusions. There appears to be some increase in resistance of CSF shunt catheters as they age, altering flow dynamics. In addition, the use of straight connectors within a CSF shunt system increases the resistance to flow of artificial CSF within the shunt system. The increase in resistance appears to be related to the duration of implantation and the length of the catheter and inversely related to the diameter of the catheter. This increase in resistance may be related to sterile shunt malfunction. The addition of straight connectors is associated with a significant increase in resistance in comparison with catheters without connectors (p = 0.005).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-197
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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