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.
To do the surgery, the doctor makes a few small cuts above your child's ear. These cuts are called incisions. Then the doctor drills a small hole in the side of the skull. The hole lets the doctor put a thin tube into the part of the brain that's filled with fluid. This tube is called a catheter.
Then the doctor makes another incision in your child's belly. A second catheter goes into this incision. It is gently pushed under the skin and up to your child's chest and neck. Next, the doctor uses a valve to attach the two catheters on the side or back of your child's head. Then the doctor closes up the incisions with stitches or staples. Both catheters and the valve are completely under the skin.
Your child will be asleep during the surgery. It usually takes about 2 hours. But your child will probably need to be in the hospital for 2 to 7 days.
The shunt will not limit your child's activities. There will be a lump on your child's head where the valve is. But it may not show after your child's hair grows back.
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 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.
Surgery can be stressful both for your child and for you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.
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Current as of: July 26, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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