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 or nurse call line 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.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & A. Evan Eyler, MD, MPH - Family Medicine, Psychiatry
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