We aimed to compare the accuracy of different shunt catheter approaches to the lateral ventricle in adults with hydrocephalus. We conducted a retrospective review of 138 consecutive patients with hydrocephalus undergoing freehand initial shunt surgery. Of these, 79 had a post-operative brain scan and therefore the results were available for analysis. Scans were graded for successful catheter tip placement in the ventricular target zones: the frontal horn for frontal and occipital approaches, and the atrium for the parietal approach. Ventricular target zones were successfully catheterized in 85% of parietal and 64% of frontal shunts (this difference is not statistically significant). In contrast, only 42% of occipital shunts were correctly placed (p <0.01). Therefore, parietal and frontal catheters are more likely to be placed successfully in the target ventricle. This may be due to the smaller range of successful trajectories open to the occipital approach. Solutions to this problem may include using the theoretically favourable frontal approach for freehand surgery or using stereotactic guidance.