What is a ventriculostomy?
A ventriculostomy is a device that
drains excess cerebrospinal fluid from
the head. It is also used to measure
the pressure in the head (referred to as
ICP, intracranial pressure). The
system is made up of a small tube,
drainage bag, and monitor.
Sometimes the ventriculostomy is
called a “ventric” for short.
Excess CSF and blood can build up in
your head after brain surgery, a head
injury, or a ruptured aneurysm. This
can create extreme pressure on the
brain. The fluid pushes against brain
tissue and slows the blood flow. The
brain needs a constant supply of
oxygen and nutrients to work well. If
your brain doesn’t receive enough
oxygen and nutrients through the
blood mental status may decline and
brain tissue may be damaged. The
ventriculostomy allows the healthcare
team to drain off excess fluid.
How is a ventriculostomy placed?
The doctor will place the ventric
either during surgery in the operating
room or, hospital room. The
procedure takes less than an hour and
does not require general anesthesia.
Medication will be used if needed to
prevent pain. A small area of the
head will be shaved and cleaned. A
cloth drape will be placed over the
head to keep the area sterile. After
numbing the scalp, the doctor will
make a small hole in the top of your
head. Then, a narrow plastic tube will
be placed into the ventricle of the
brain. This tube is connected to a
drainage bag and monitoring system
allowing the healthcare team to
observe the head pressures and drain
off excess fluid from the brain as
needed. The tube will be held in
place with some stitches. It may be
covered with a dressing to keep it
What can I expect?
Your nurse will:
ξ Check the drain
ξ Monitor the pressure.
ξ Drain off any extra fluid
ξ Adjust the position of the drain
ξ Check the dressing for leakage
and signs of infection
The nurse will also do a neurological
exam by asking questions; such as
“stick out your tongue”, “hold up your
arms” and “show your teeth”. While
these questions and exercises may
seem silly, they all provide the nurse
with information about the function of
The doctor may draw fluid samples
from the drain to send to the lab to
test for infection. This is routine. If
you get an infection, the doctor will
treat you with antibiotics.
Do not touch your ventric while it is
in place. Touching it may cause it to
fall out, lead to infection, bleeding, or
excessive drainage of fluid. Always
ask the nurse to help with moving
around, problems with the dressing, or
itching at the site.
Do not allow family or others to
adjust the bed’s position or touch your
drain. Only the nurse or doctor may
safely use your ventriculostomy.
Never move the head of the bed up or
down without help from the nurse. It
could cause fluid to drain out of the
head, causing a severe headache. The
nurse needs to clamp the drain and
adjust the level of the ventric
whenever the position of the head is
The doctor will decide when it’s safe
to take the ventriculostomy out.
When it’s time, the doctor will
remove the stitches and carefully pull
the tube out. It will not hurt and takes
only a minute. A dressing will be
placed over the site. The nurse will
watch it for drainage and infection.
Sometimes, a staple or two may be
needed to keep the site from draining.
Talk to your healthcare team. Ask
questions and express concerns about
the drain. Talking with the doctor and
nurse will give you a better
understanding of both the ventric and
the road to recovery.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright 2/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#6563