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Critical Reviews™ in Biomedical Engineering

ISSN Print: 0278-940X
ISSN Online: 1943-619X

Critical Reviews™ in Biomedical Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevBiomedEng.2016017149
pages 91-97

Hydrocephalus and Ventriculoperitoneal Shunts: Modes of Failure and Opportunities for Improvement

Julianne Jorgensen
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Needham, Massachusetts, USA
Corin Williams
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA
Alisha Sarang-Sieminski
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Needham, Massachusetts, USA

ABSTRACT

Between 0.5 and 4 of every 1000 children are born with hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is an over-accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain, which can affect cognitive function, vision, appetite, and cranial nerve function. Left untreated, hydrocephalus can result in death. The current treatment for hydrocephalus uses ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunts with valves to redirect CSF from the ventricles into the peritoneum. Shunt technology is limited by a number of complications, which include infection after implantation, shunt obstruction due to clot formation or catheter obstruction by scar tissue or choroid plexus, disconnection and tubing migration, and overdrainage or underdrainage of CSF due to valve malfunction. While modifications to surgical procedures and shunt design have been introduced, only modest improvements in outcomes have been observed. Here we provide an overview of hydrocephalus, VP shunts, and their modes of failure, and we identify numerous areas of opportunity for biomedical engineers and physicians to collaborate to improve the performance of VP shunts.