Ventriculoperitoneal shunts (VP shunts) help control the pressure in the brain. Certain conditions, such as brain tumours or fluid buildup in the brain (hydrocephalus), can cause the brain to swell. When this happens, the brain may not be able to work well. VP shunts help lower the pressure by draining extra fluid out of the brain and into the belly. This extra fluid is absorbed by the body.
The doctor makes a few small cuts (incisions) above your child's ear. Then he or she drills a small hole in the side of the skull to get to your child's brain. The doctor puts a thin tube called a catheter through this hole into the fluid-filled area of the brain.
Then the doctor makes another incision in your child's belly. A second catheter is gently pushed through this incision and under your child's skin and up through the chest and neck. The doctor then attaches the two catheters with a valve on the side or back of your child's head. Then the incisions are closed with stitches or staples. Both catheters and the valve are completely underneath the skin.
Your child will be asleep during this surgery. The surgery usually takes about 2 hours. But your child will probably need to be in the hospital for 2 to 7 days.
After surgery, your child's neck or belly may be tender. But your child should not have much pain. His or her head may begin to get smaller right away.
The area around the stitches or staples may be tender for a week or so. If needed, the doctor will remove your child's stitches or staples 5 to 10 days after surgery.
The shunt won't limit your child's activities. There will be a lump on your child's head where the valve is. This lump may not show when your child's hair grows back. In some cases, the shunt cannot be felt underneath the skin.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
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Current as of: March 27, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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