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Neurosurgery. 2006 Feb;58(1 Suppl):ONS76-82; discussion ONS76-82.

Bowel perforation caused by peritoneal shunt catheters: diagnosis and treatment.

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Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Centre Hospitalier Regional, University de Lille, Lille, France.



The peritoneum is the preferred site for insertion of shunts used for the treatment of hydrocephalus. Bowel perforation by peritoneal catheters (BPPC) is a rare but devastating complication. Its pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment are debated.


Retrospective review of cases of BPPC in a series of 1956 patients having a peritoneal catheter followed up for a mean duration of 10.0 years.


Nineteen observations of BPPC, representing 1.0% of the total series. Nine of 19 patients were nonambulatory, and nine of 19 had a previous history of meningeal infection. At the time of diagnosis, only three of the 19 patients had anal extrusion of the catheter, 14 had fever, nine had abdominal signs and symptoms, and six had cutaneous signs of infection. Radiological investigations were often negative or inconclusive. In seven of the patients, the initial diagnosis was shunt failure, and BPPC was diagnosed only during shunt revision. Once the correct diagnosis was made, the treatment was total shunt removal, external drainage, and antibiotic therapy for 2 weeks. Three patients, all severely impaired before BPPC, died, one of meningeal sepsis, the others of multiorgan failure related to spastic tetraparesis. Three were considered shunt-independent, two had a ventriculoatrial shunt, and the others had a new shunt with a peritoneal catheter without complication.


BPPC is a neurosurgical emergency. Anal extrusion is present in only a minority of patients; the diagnosis of BPPC is often difficult, delayed, and its incidence is likely underestimated. The majority of patients can be treated with a new peritoneal shunt after cure of the infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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