Cerebrospinal fluid shunting procedures are widely employed in the treatment of hydrocephalus and other disturbances of the dynamics of cerebrospinal fluid. In spite of its popularity, this operation frequently requires surgical revision. A retrospective analysis of a series of 356 adults who underwent the insertion of a cerebrospinal fluid shunt between January 1970 and December 1988 was performed. The incidence of revision was analyzed, and an attempt was made to identify possible causal factors. The overall incidence of surgical revisions was 28.65%; the number of revisions in the same patient ranged between one and eight. The most frequent causes of revision were distal malposition, obstruction, and infection. A statistically significant difference (P less than 0.05) was found in both the risk of revision in patients who had undergone previous operations and those who had not and in the incidence of revision before and after January 1985. Meticulous surgical technique as well as perioperative antibiotic prophylaxis appear responsible for the latter. The differences in the incidence of revision among patients treated with different types of shunts and valves, though remarkable, is not statistically significant.