A brain shunt is a narrow piece of tubing that is inserted into the brain in the fluid-filled ventricle. The tubing is then passed under the skin into another area of the body, most often into the abdomen. Occasionally, the shunt tubing can be placed into one of the chambers of the heart or the lining of the lungs. The shunt tubing relieves pressure on the brain, a condition known as hydrocephalus, by draining the extra fluid in the brain ventricle(s) to a different area of the body where it can be absorbed more quickly.
The type of brain shunt a patient receives is dependent on their symptoms and specific diagnosis. Talk with your doctor about the exact shunt he or she will use during surgery.
For most shunt surgeries, patients are given general anesthesia to put them to sleep. A breathing tube may also be inserted to assist your lungs throughout the procedure.
Patients are placed on a special operating room bed that allows for optimal access to the head and room for the surgeon to work and helps greatly reduce the potential for blood loss.
Your surgeon will make an incision in your scalp. A small hole will then be made in the skull. Your surgeon will then place the catheter into the ventricle. The other end of the catheter will be tunneled under your skin into your abdomen, chest or heart, depending on where your neurosurgeon has decided.
Your brain shunt recovery time in the hospital depends on the reason for the shunt and what type was inserted. Also, patients may experience difficulty with walking, talking, balance and strength after surgery. Most patients who have a shunt inserted will go home the day after surgery, but your surgeon will decide when you are ready for discharge.
If you require rehab before going home, a doctor from the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department will see you and make specific recommendations regarding your discharge.
You need to be able to walk, eat, urinate and your surgical wound must be healing well.
Contact your doctor immediately if:
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