Time-related patterns of ventricular shunt failure

John Kast, Duc Duong, Farshad Nowzari, William M. Chadduck, Steven J. Schiff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Proximal obstruction is reported to be the most common cause of ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt failure, suggesting that imperfect ventricular catheter placement and inadequate valve mechanisms are major causes. This study retrospectively examined patterns of shunt failure in 128 consecutive patients with symptoms of shunt malfunction over a 2-year period. Factors analyzed included site of failure, time from shunt placement or last revision to failure, age of patient at time of failure, infections, and primary etiology of the hydrocephalus. One hundred of these patients required revisions; 14 revisions were due to infections. In this series there was a higher incidence of distal (43%) than of proximal (35%) failure. The difference was not statistically significant when the overall series was considered; however, when factoring time to failure as a variable, marked differences were noted regardless of the underlying cause of hydrocephalus or the age of the patient. Of the 49 patients needing a shunt revision or replacement within 2 years of the previous operation, 50% had proximal malfunction, 14% distal, and 10% had malfunctions attributable directly to the valve itself. Also, 12 of the 14 infections occurred during this time interval. In sharp contrast, of the 51 patients having shunt failure from 2 to more than 12 years after the previous procedure, 72% had distal malfunction, 21% proximal, and only 6% had a faulty valve or infection. This difference between time to failure for proximal versus distal failures was statistically significant (P<0.00001 for both Student's t-test and non-parametric Mann-Whitney U-test). It is concluded that these data are valuable for interpreting outcome studies of novel valve systems and ventricular catheter placement techniques, by defining a time frame during which these modifications can be reliably evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-528
Number of pages5
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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