The risk of abdominal operations in children with ventriculoperitoneal shunts

Thomas Pittman, Dianne Williams, Thomas R. Weber, George Steinhardt, Tom Tracy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunts are the operations of choice for patients with hydrocephalus in most pediatric hospitals. Children with VP shunts frequently undergo abdominal operations unrelated to their shunts, which might lead to shunt infections or to malfunctions related to adhesions. Although prophylactic antibiotics are usually used in this setting, there are few data to support their use, or to assess other risks to the shunt from the abdominal procedures. Consequently, we reviewed the records of 37 children with VP shunts who underwent a total of 44 abdominal operations. In 8 cases, the genitourinary (GU) tract was opened (ureteral reimplantation, bladder augmentation, nephrectomy), whereas in 18 patients the gastrointestinal (GI) tract was opened (appendectomy, gastrostomy, small/large bowel resection). In 18 operations neither GI nor GU tract was opened (lysis of adhesions, herniorrhaphy, orchiopexy). Antibiotic coverage was highly variable: 9 received no antibiotics, 9 received antibiotics only postoperatively, 4 were given antibiotics only preoperatively, and in 22 cases antibiotics were given both preoperatively and postoperatively. One shunt that was involved in a periappendiceal abscess was exteriorized and later successfully replaced. In the remaining cases, no episodes of shunt infection or malfunction occurred in 1 to 10 years of follow-up. Likewise, no abdominal cerebrospinal fluid pseudocysts formed as a result of abdominal adhesions. These data demonstrate that children with VP shunts can safely undergo abdominal operations, even when the GI or GU systems are opened, with minimal risk of shunt infection or malfunction. Rigid protocols of prophylactic antibiotics cannot be supported by this series.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1051-1053
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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