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J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2010 Sep;6(3):299-302. doi: 10.3171/2010.6.PEDS10107.

Radiographic assessment of snap-shunt failure: report of 2 cases.

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  • 1Division of Neurosurgery, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05401, USA.


Accurate assessment of imaging studies in patients with ventriculoperitoneal shunts can be aided by empirical findings. The authors characterize an objective measurement easily performed on head CT scans with the goal of producing clear evidence of shunt fracture or disconnection in patients with a snap shunt-type system. The authors describe 2 cases of ventriculoperitoneal shunt failure involving a fracture and a disconnection associated with a snap-shunt assembly. In both cases the initial clinical symptoms were not convincing for shunt malfunction, and the interpretation of the CT finding failed to immediately identify the abnormality. As the clinical picture became more convincing for shunt malfunction, each patient subsequently underwent successful shunt revision. The authors reviewed the CT scans of 10 patients with an intact and functioning snap-shunt system to characterize the normal appearance of the snap-shunt connection. On CT scans the distance between the radiopaque portion of the ventricular catheter and the radiopaque portion of the reservoir dome measures an average of 4.72 mm (range 4.6-4.9 mm, 95% CI 4.63-4.81 mm). In the authors' patient with a fractured ventricular catheter, this interval measured 7.8 mm, and in the patient with a disconnection it measured 7.7 mm. In comparison with the range of normal values, a radiolucent interval significantly greater than 4.9 mm should promptly raise concern for a disconnected or fractured shunt in this system. This measurement may prove particularly useful when serial imaging is not readily available.

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