Shunt Placement

Also known as: shunt surgery, ventriculoperitoneal/ventriculoatrial or ventriculopleural shunting.

What is shunt placement?

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is formed by the choroid plexus in the cavities (ventricles) of the brain. This fluid normally flows around the brain and spinal column, being continuously formed and reabsorbed. When there is a blockage in the pathway (from a number of causes) or a problem with the production or reabsorption of the CSF, it collects in the brain cavities (fluid on the brain, or hydrocephalus).

When a small flexible tube (shunt) is placed in a ventricle to drain or bypass a blockage, this procedure is called a shunt placement.

Our neurosurgeons use various types of shunt valves, both fixed pressure and programmable valves to treat hydrocephalus in babies and children. These options are determined based on each patient's individual needs.

What happens during the procedure?

There are a number of different shunt systems which include re-routing the brain fluid to the abdomen, the heart or lung. In general, an incision is made behind the patient’s ear, and a hole is drilled in the skull. A small silicone tube is placed in the brain ventricle and receiving organ that allows for fluid to drain in one direction with a skull reservoir that allows for testing of the shunt and to check for signs of infection.

Is any special preparation needed?

Since anesthesia is involved, a person may need to avoid food, drink or medications for a set period of time before the procedure.

What are the risk factors?

Blockage (obstruction) of the shunt is one of the most common complications, followed by shunt malfunction.

Other complications include infections, bleeding, seizures and other potential side effects.   

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: May 12, 2023 03:40 PM

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