Minimally invasive procedure for removal of infected ventriculoatrial shunts

Lorenzo Magrassi, Gianluca Mezzini, Lorenzo Paolo Moramarco, Nicola Cionfoli, David Shepetowsky, Elena Seminari, Angela Di Matteo, Pietro Quaretti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Ventriculoatrial shunts were one of the most common treatments of hydrocephalus in pediatric and adult patients up to about 40 years ago. Thereafter, due to the widespread recognition of the severe cardiac and renal complications associated with ventriculoatrial shunts, they are almost exclusively implanted when other techniques fail. However, late infection or atrial thrombi of previously implanted shunts require removal of the atrial catheter several decades after implantation. Techniques derived from management of central venous access catheters can avoid cardiothoracic surgery in such instances. Methods: We retrospectively investigated all the patients requiring removal of a VA shunt for complications treated in the last 5 years in our institution. Results: We identified two patients that were implanted 28 and 40 years earlier. Both developed endocarditis with a large atrial thrombus and were successfully treated endovascularly. The successful percutaneous removal was achieved by applying, for the first time in this setting, the endoluminal dilation technique as proposed by Hong. After ventriculoatrial shunt removal and its substitution with an external drainage, both patients where successfully weaned from the need for a shunt and their infection resolved. Conclusion: Patients carrying a ventriculoatrial shunt are now rarely seen and awareness of long-term ventriculoatrial shunt complications is decreasing. However, these complications must be recognized and treated by shunt removal. Endovascular techniques are appropriate even in the presence of overt endocarditis, atrial thrombi, and tight adherence to the endocardial wall. Moreover, weaning from shunt dependence is possible even decades after shunting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-462
Number of pages8
JournalActa Neurochirurgica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Endocarditis
  • Endovascular removal
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Right atrium
  • Ventriculoatrial shunt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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