Forty years of shunt surgery at Rigshospitalet

Kofoed Månsson P, Johansson S, Ziebell M & Juhler M

This paper is a retrospective view of our single center experience with shunt survival and risk factors across 40 years. It demonstrates the continuing major challenges in shunt surgery.


The objective of this study is to review our experience of shunt surgery by investigating 40 years of development in terms of rates of revision and infection, shunt survival and risk factors.

Design and Participants

Medical records and operative reports were reviewed retrospectively for all patients who underwent primary shunt surgery at our department in the years 2010 to 2012. All results were compared with a previous study from our department. A mixed population consisting of 434 patients was included. Adults (≥15 years) accounted for 89.9% of all patients and the mean follow-up time was 1.71 years.


Overall, 42.6% had a revision of which 65.4% fell within 6 months postoperatively. Low age, high-risk diagnoses and less severe brain injury were associated with a higher risk of revision. One and 5-year shunt survival probabilities were 66.2% (61.5–70.9) and 48.0% (41.1–54.9). Within 4 weeks postoperatively, 3.2% had an infection and overall infection rate was 5.5%. Short duration of surgery and the use of antibiotic prophylaxis were associated with a lower risk of infection. The most frequent causes of revision were valve defects (18.4%) and proximal defects or obstructions (15.7%). Compared to the previous study, no convincing improvement was found with regard to the revision rate (42.6% vs 48.3%, p=0.060) or overall infection rate (5.5% vs 7.4%, p=0.261).


Regardless of changes in patient demographics, techniques and equipment, risk of revision and infection still constitutes a major challenge in shunt surgery. The absence of convincing improvements calls for more studies concerning strategies to reduce complications.

Read the full paper in BMJ Open (click here).