Background: Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunts are the most common treatment for hydrocephalus in both pediatric and adult patients. Complications resulting from the abdominal portion of shunts include tube disconnection, obstruction of the shunt tip, catheter migration, infection, abdominal pseudocysts, and bowel perforation. However, other less common complications can occur. The authors present a unique case of a patient with a longstanding VP shunt presenting with an acute abdomen secondary to knotting of the peritoneal portion of the catheter tubing. Case description: A 13-year-old male with past medical history significant for myelomeningocele, requiring ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement at 18 months of age, presented to an outside hospital with chief complaint of abdominal pain. Cross-sectional imaging revealed spontaneous knot formation within the shunt tubing around the base of the small bowel mesentery. He was then transferred to our facility for general and neurosurgical evaluation. His abdominal exam was notable for diffuse distension in addition to tenderness to palpation with guarding and rebound. Given his tenuous clinical status and peritonitis, he was emergently booked for abdominal exploration. He underwent bowel resection, externalization of his shunt, with later re-anastomosis and shunt internalization. He eventually made a full recovery. Discussion: Given the potential for significant bowel loss with this and other shunt-related complications, this case serves as a reminder that even longstanding VP shunts should be considered in the differential diagnosis of abdominal pain in any patient with a shunt.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2719-2722
Number of pages4
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Mesenteric strangulation
  • Ventriculoperitoneal shunt (VP shunt)


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