A ventriculoperitoneal shunt treats hydrocephalus because it drains cerebrospinal fluid and relieves the excess pressure on the brain, MedlinePlus explains. Without the ventriculoperitoneal shunt, cerebrospinal fluid can continue to accumulate and compress the brain against the skull, potentially damaging it.
To install a ventriculoperitoneal shunt, surgeons drill a small hole into the skull and make a small incision in the belly, MedlinePlus says. The surgeons insert a catheter into the brain to bring fluid down to a valve they place beneath the skin behind an ear. They thread a second catheter tube from the valve down to the incision in the belly underneath the skin. After the procedure, surgical staples or stitches remain in place for between seven and 14 days.
Potential complications of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt include a blocked shunt and an infected shunt, says MedlinePlus. When these problems arise, signs and symptoms include a fever of at least 101 degrees Fahrenheit, stiff neck, enlarged veins on the scalp, unusual irritability and persistent vomiting. Other signs include sleep problems, pallor, a growing head, swelling anywhere around the shunt or seizures. More signs include poor appetite, persistent belly pain and headache. Anyone with a ventriculoperitoneal shunt who has these symptoms should seek medical attention.