Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt Surgery: Before Your Surgery

Skip to the navigation

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.

To do the surgery, the doctor makes a few small cuts above your ear. These cuts are called incisions. Then the doctor drills a small hole in the side of your 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 belly. A second catheter goes into this incision. It is gently pushed under the skin and up to your chest and neck. Next, the doctor uses a valve to attach the two catheters on the side or back of your head. Then the doctor closes up the incisions with stitches or staples. Both catheters and the valve are completely under your skin.

You will be asleep during this surgery. It usually takes 1 to 2 hours. After the surgery, you will probably stay in the hospital for 2 to 7 days and need to take at least a week off from work. But how long you take off from work depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.

You can do all of your normal activities with the shunt in place. You will have a lump on your head where the valve is. But it may not show after your hair grows back.

You probably will have your VP shunt for life. After several years, you may need to replace it. You may also need to replace it if it stops working well.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines, including natural health products, such as vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take 1 to 2 hours.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

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

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

Enter N256 in the search box to learn more about "Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt Surgery: Before Your Surgery."

Current as of: July 26, 2016