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Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt Surgery: Before Your Child's Surgery

What is ventriculoperitoneal shunt surgery?

Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt surgery drains extra fluid out of the brain. The extra fluid moves into the belly and is absorbed by the body. This helps control the pressure in the brain so the brain can work as it should.

Some health problems can cause swelling and pressure in the brain. These include brain tumours and hydrocephalus, which is extra fluid in the brain.

The surgery is done in two parts. First, the doctor drills a small hole in your child's skull. A thin tube is then placed in the brain's fluid-filled part. Then the doctor threads a thin tube from a cut in your child's belly to the chest and neck. The two tubes are then connected with a valve. This allows the fluid to drain into the belly.

Your child will be asleep during the surgery. It usually takes a few hours. But your child will probably need to be in the hospital for several days.

The shunt won't limit your child's activities. There will be a lump on your child's head where the valve is.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Talk to your child about the surgery. Tell your child that the surgery will help get rid of extra fluid in your child's brain. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • Ask if a special tour of the surgery area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. He or she may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.

The day before surgery

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the surgery may be cancelled. If the doctor told you to have your child take their medicines on the day of surgery, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
  • Have your child take a bath or shower before you come in. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
  • Your child may brush their teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
  • Do not let your child wear contact lenses. Bring your child's glasses or contact lens case.
  • Be sure your child has something that reminds them of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by an anesthesia provider. Your child will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery usually takes a few hours.
  • After surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery room staff will monitor their condition. The doctor will talk to you about the surgery.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare your child for the surgery.
  • Your child becomes ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

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