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Dermatology Online Journal

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Scalp necrosis overlying a ventriculoperitoneal shunt: a case report and literature review


Background: The use of ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunts has become ubiquitous in neurosurgery for the treatment of hydrocephalus. VP shunts work by creating a conduit for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to flow from the cerebral ventricles to the peritoneum and thus relieving pressure. Although typically safe, VP shunt complications are extremely common, occurring in up to 29% of adult cases and approximately half of pediatric cases. These complications may require patients to undergo several revisions throughout their lifetime

Purpose: We describe a man who developed scalp necrosis overlying his VP shunt. We also summarize the potential complications of VP shunts. We discuss the presentation and pathogenesis of scalp necrosis in these patients.

Materials and methods: A PubMed search of the following terms was performed and relevant citations were assessed: ventriculoperitoneal shunt, VP shunt, shunt complications, scalp necrosis, skin necrosis, ventriculoperitoneal shunt induced scalp necrosis, ventriculoperitoneal shunt induced skin necrosis.

Results: A 73-year-old man developed VP shunt-induced scalp necrosis leading to loss of skin overlying the shunt valve. The patient was emergently referred to neurosurgery and admitted for revision of the shunt due to the significant risk for infection. The VP shunt was replaced with an external drain and a skin flap was used to repair the defect.

Conclusion: VP shunts are devices that are frequently used for reducing intracranial pressure associated with hydrocephalus. The insertion of the shunt beneath the scalp sets the stage for potential pressure-induced scalp necrosis. The early recognition and diagnosis of VP shunt-induced scalp necrosis is essential to prevent infections and future complications.

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