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What Is A Shunt In The Brain

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Signs Of Shunt Complication

Draining the Brain: Shunts and their Role in Treating Hydrocephalus

If a shunt is in place, its important to monitor for the following signs of shunt problems:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy

Depending on where the shunt is located, there may also be abdominal pain or the ability to feel an enlargement around the shunt drainage site in the abdomen. Radiologic testing can help diagnose the presence of infection, a cyst around the drainage end of the shunt, increased fluid inside the brain which indicates the shunt is not working properly, and other complications.

Cerebral Shunt Malfunction Or Shunt Failure

Cerebral shunt malfunction also referred to as shunt failure, is a partial or complete blockage of the shunt that causes it to function intermittently or not at all. When a blockage occurs, cerebrospinal fluid accumulates and can result in symptoms of untreated hydrocephalus.

A shunt blockage from blood cells, tissue, or bacteria can occur in any part of the shunt. Both the ventricular catheter and the distal part of the catheter can become blocked by tissue.

Shunts are very durable, but their components can become disconnected or fractured as a result of wear or as a child grows. Occasionally they dislodge from where they were originally placed. Breakage causes a total or partial interruption in the shunt pathway, which may obstruct fluid flow and add resistance to the system. A disconnection may occur, but the formation of scar tissue around the subcutaneous catheter may still allow fluid to flow. Migration may also alter shunt function, causing catheters to move to locations that may restrict flow. Rarely, a valve will fail because of a mechanical malfunction.

If you have a programmable valve and are experiencing symptoms of a shunt malfunction, if it can be determined that your shunt is still capable of flow, your doctor may adjust your setting to avoid an operation.

What Happens After The Placement Of A Vp Shunt

After the surgery, the doctors and nurses will watch your child closely in the recovery room. Your child will have bandages on the incision sites.

The doctor will talk to you about:

  • how long your child will stay in the hospital
  • when your child can eat and drink
  • taking any medicines at home, including pain medicines
  • when your child can bathe
  • how to take care of the surgical site area
  • when your child can return to school, regular activities, and sports
  • when your child can use a hair dryer and hair products
  • any other needed restrictions

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What You Should Know: Brain Shunt Placement At Insight Neurosurgery

by fahad | Mar 23, 2022 | Insight News |

Written By Mustafa Syed | Edited By: Mel QuistAre you having sudden severe headaches accompanied by blurry vision? This could be due to increased brain pressure caused by a range of factors, including hydrocephalus, head injury, brain aneurysm, stroke, drug use, and brain infections such as meningitis and encephalitis.

If you have experienced any of these conditions, followed by intensifying symptoms, it is recommended that you visit one of our specialists at Insight Neurosurgery to assess the possibility of a condition called increased intracranial pressure . ICP is caused by growing pressure inside the skull.

The intensifying symptoms to look out for include persistent severe headaches, blurred vision, muscle weakness, fatigue, vomiting, and sleepiness. Notably, children have the same symptoms as an adult. However, an infant could have an abnormally shaped head.Once an increase in brain pressure is confirmed, brain shunt placement is recommended to drain excess fluid and relieve pressure in the brain.

What is a Brain Shunt Placement?Brain shunt placement involves inserting a long tube under the skin, from head cavities through the neck and to the abdomen, where the excess fluid is drained. The tubes point of entry could be behind the ear and top or back of the head.

What Is The Prognosis


If left untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal. Early diagnosis and successful treatment improve the chance for a good recovery.

With the benefits of surgery, rehabilitative therapies, and educational interventions, many people with hydrocephalus live relatively normal lives.

The symptoms of NPH usually get worse over time if the condition is not treated, although some people may experience temporary improvements.

While the success of treatment with shunts varies from person to person, some people recover almost completely after treatment and have a good quality of life.

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Who Needs A Vp Shunt

VP Shunts are required in case the candidate is diagnosed with hydrocephalus. In case of children, the condition is most visibly noticed by the enlargement of head. In grown ups and adults, the condition may be confirmed with the help of other symptoms. VP shunts are implanted in the brain in order to help drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid from the ventricles so that the brain can continue to perform regular activities. The symptoms that may follow with hydrocephalus include headaches, cognitive impairments, movement impairment, irritability, delayed development, high pitched cries among babies, muscle stiffness, nausea and vomiting and many more.

VP Shunts have found high implementation because of their huge success in relieving the symptoms and extending longevity to the candidate. The treatment is also favored by most of the doctors as it is affordable than other painful procedures which may not provide a long-term remedy. The cost of vp shunt in India has been estimated to be $1180, which is far more affordable than that of the countries. Apart from that, in some countries, the cost may surge up to $40,732 as in the United States.

Best Hospitals For Vp Shunt Surgery

New Delhi,India

Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital is a multispecialty hospital with world-class medical facilities and a wide array of services. Its headquarters is in Bengaluru but it has centres across India. It altogether had 23 hospitals and 7 heart centres. The super-speciality hospital provides healthcare services in several categories. It has orthopaedics, joint replacement, oncology, neurology, urology, nephrology, bone marrow transplantation, emergency medicine & critical care, and … Read More

Equipped with more than 50 specialty institutes, Indraprastha Apollo was started with the vision of bringing forward quality with optimal cost. Situated in the capital city of India, it has upheld all that is good and valuable about the traditional Indian way of life. Apollo hospital Delhi conducts frequent trainings and make quality healthcare affordable for anyone across the globe.

Apollo hospital Delhis operational model is far beyond the business metrics. Being situa… Read More

Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore is the latest and a recent addition to the Mount Elizabeth legacy. This is a highly advanced and modern hospital that marks the beginning of a new era in the field of tertiary care medical treatments.


Facilities & Amenities

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Why Does My Child Need A Shunt

CSF is made up of water, protein, sugar and minerals and flows through four cavities, or ventricles, in the brain. Usually, CSF passes through tiny openings at the base of the brain, and then over the brains surface where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. It then recirculates through the bloodstream.

When there is a blockage to the flow of CSF, or the CSF cannot be absorbed, the volume of CSF builds up within the ventricles and subarachnoid space. This is called hydrocephalus. The CSF compartments may enlarge causing pressure on the brain which will be compromised if left untreated.

Hydrocephalus/CSF disorders are treated very successfully with surgical insertion of a shunt.

Why The Procedure Is Performed

Shunt Surgery & Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus — What to Expect — DePuy Videos

This surgery is done when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and spinal cord. This is called hydrocephalus. It causes higher than normal pressure on the brain. It can cause brain damage.

Children may be born with hydrocephalus. It can occur with other birth defects of the spinal column or brain. Hydrocephalus can also occur in older adults.

Shunt surgery should be done as soon as hydrocephalus is diagnosed. Alternative surgeries may be proposed. Your doctor can tell you more about these options.

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In Your Hospital Room

The length of time youre in the hospital after your surgery depends on your recovery. Most people stay in the hospital for 1 to 2 days.

When youre taken to your hospital room, youll meet one of the nurses who will care for you while youre in the hospital. While youre in the hospital, your nurses will teach you how to care for yourself while youre recovering from your surgery.

For the first few days after your surgery, your nurses will do simple tests to make sure your brain is working well. Theyll do things such as:

  • Ask you questions such as where you are and what time of day it is.
  • Ask you to move your arms and legs.
  • Shine a small light into your eyes to check the response of your pupils.

Read the resource to learn about what you can do to stay safe and keep from falling while youre in the hospital.

Managing your pain

You may have a mild headache or feel discomfort around your incision for the first few days after your surgery.

At first, youll get pain medication in your IV line. Once youre able to eat normal food, youll get oral pain medication .

Your healthcare providers will ask you about your pain often and give you medication as needed. If your pain isnt relieved, tell one of your healthcare providers. Its important to control your pain so you can use your incentive spirometer and move around. Controlling your pain will help you recover better.

Moving around and walking

Exercising your lungs

Eating and drinking

Imaging scan

Caring for your incision

How Should We Prepare For A Vp Shunt

Your child cannot eat or drink for several hours before the surgery. Tell the doctor about any medicines your child takes. Some might need to be stopped before the surgery. Also let the doctor know if your child has any allergies.

Your child should have clean hair at the time of the surgery.

Your child will stay in the hospital after the surgery, so bring toiletries and other items that will help make the stay more comfortable.

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Recovery Post Vp Shunt Surgery

VP shunt surgery is a major procedure as it involves implanting a device in the brain which will regulate and monitor the fluid content of the brain so that it can function properly. Thus, post surgery recovery of vp shunt may take time as the candidate needs to adjust with the new device monitoring inside the head. Where in case of some candidates the recovery period may require only 3 to 4 days, Iin other cases, it may extend to over a week. In general, the candidate can get back regular activities after one week of complete rest. However, one must keep in mind to not indulge into activities that involve physical blows to head for approximately six weeks.

Brain Shunt Failures And Negligence

Life with a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt

A brain shunt is used to remove a buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid on the brain. When excess fluid develops, it increases the pressure inside the skull and can damage the brain. Symptoms of increased fluid on the brain include a headache, vomiting, and seizures. Eventually, brain damage and death can occur.

Thousands of people in the United States live their lives with a brain shunt. Although a brain shunt saves many lives, it also has risks. Installation of the shunt system is a delicate surgery and often leads to complications. Even if surgery is successful, the shunt can fail, and problems can develop.

What is a Brain Shunt?

A brain shunt is a hollow tube that is surgically inserted into the brain to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid is directed to another place in the body where it is reabsorbed. In most instances, the fluid is re-routed to the abdomen.

Cerebrospinal fluid protects and cushions the brain. The fluid also delivers nutrients and removes waste from the brain. Normally, cerebrospinal fluid flows through the ventricles to the base of the brain. When the normal flow of fluid is disputed, it causes an increase in fluid and pressure, which can be harmful to the brain.

In most cases, a shunt is needed to treat hydrocephalus. According to the Hydrocephalus Association, about two babies out of every 1000 are born with hydrocephalus, which makes it about as common as downs syndrome.

Shunt Complications

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How A Shunt Helps

Hydrocephalus symptoms may improve within days of shunt surgery, or may take weeks to months to get better.

Other neurological or medical conditions can affect recovery. If your symptoms are mostly due to normal pressure hydrocephalus as opposed to other conditions, the shunt is likely to help alleviate them.

About 10 percent of patients show some improvement soon after a shunt is placed, but show less of a long-term response. The reasons for this are not well understood.

Other patients may develop additional disorders of the brain that also affect gait and memory that will not respond to drainage from the shunt.

When Surgery Is Necessary

Hydrocephalus can be treated in a variety of ways. The problem area may be treated directly or indirectly . Indirect treatment is performed by implanting a device known as a shunt to divert the excess CSF away from the brain. The body cavity in which the CSF is diverted usually is the peritoneal cavity .

In some cases, two procedures are performed: one to divert the CSF and another at a later stage to remove the cause of obstruction . Once inserted, the shunt system usually remains in place for the duration of a patient’s life, although additional operations to revise the shunt system may be needed. The shunt system continuously performs its function of diverting the CSF away from the brain, thereby keeping the intracranial pressure within normal limits.

An alternative operation called endoscopic third ventriculostomy may be recommended. In this operation, a tiny burr hole is made in the skull and a neuroendoscope enters the brain. The neurosurgeon then will make a small hole in the floor of the third ventricle, creating a new pathway through which CSF can flow.

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What Is It Used For

Doctors often use a ventriculoperitoneal shunt to treat hydrocephalus, which is also known as water on the brain. Hydrocephalus is a condition where cerebrospinal fluid pools in the cavities in a persons brain.

CSF delivers essential nutrients to the brain and drains away waste. To do this, CSF passes through cavities in the brain called ventricles, bathing the brain in the fluid. It then drains out of the base of the brain, and the blood reabsorbs it.

When a person has hydrocephalus, this process does not happen correctly. Excess CSF pools in the brain ventricles, which increases the pressure on the brain. Hydrocephalus may cause brain damage or death if left untreated.

According to the Hydrocephalus Association, over 1 million people in the United States have the condition. When a person has hydrocephalus, it may mean that there is:

  • an obstruction that stops CSF draining properly
  • overproduction of CSF

The following factors can cause hydrocephalus:

  • genes, meaning it may be inherited
  • head injuries

The doctor will give a person a general anesthetic before they fit the ventriculoperitoneal shunt. Once the person is completely asleep, the doctor will drill a small hole in their skull through an incision behind their ear.

Once the doctor connects all parts of the shunt, the shunt system will start draining CSF fluid from the brain.

The doctor will advise a person how to prepare for this procedure. The doctor may recommend:

What Happens During The Placement Of A Vp Shunt

Shunt Systems with Dr. Jodie Levitt

A surgeon will do the VP shunt placement in an operating room. Your child will get anesthesia to sleep during the surgery and not feel pain. A small area of hair might be shaved, then the surgeon will make small incisions in the scalp.

After making a small hole in the skull, the surgeon will place the tip of the catheter into the brain. This catheter is connected to a valve, which is then connected to a second catheter. When the shunt is in place, the doctor closes the incisions with stitches or staples, and puts on bandages.

The catheter runs under the skin into the belly, so you can’t see it. You might be able to feel where the tubing travels under the skin in the neck.

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What Happens Before The Operation

Some tests may be required.

The neurosurgeon will explain the operation to you and ask for written consent. A shunt is inserted under a general anaesthetic. The risks associated with this surgery will be explained to you.

An anaesthetist will see your child and speak to you about when your child will need to stop eating and drinking in preparation for the operation.

What Is The Current Treatment

Surgical treatmentsHydrocephalus is treated with one of two surgical options:

  • A shunt is surgically inserted into the brain and connected to a flexible tube placed under the skin to drain the excess fluid into either the chest cavity or the abdomen so it can be absorbed by the body.
  • Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy improves the flow of CSF out of the brain. A tiny hole is made at the bottom of the third ventricle and the CSF is diverted there to relieve pressure. Sometimes this is done in conjunction with choroid plexus cauterization to try and decrease the production of CSF. Choroid plexus cauterization uses electric current to burn the CSF-producing tissue in the lateral ventricles in the brain, so it produces less CSF.

Shunt systems generally function well but they can fail to properly drain the CSF due to mechanical failure or infection. When this happens the CSF once again begins to build up in the brain and earlier symptoms may recur. To reduce the buildup of CSF, the clogged shunt system is replaced to restore drainage of CSF. Shunts require monitoring and regular medical checkups. Multiple surgeries may be needed to repair or replace a shunt throughout a persons lifetime. Seek medical help immediately if symptoms develop that suggest the shunt system is not working properly.Signs and symptoms of shunt malfunction may include:

  • headache
  • reoccurrence of hydrocephalus symptoms.

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