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How do surgeons perform a brain shunt procedure?

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During a brain shunt placement surgery, the surgeon puts the patient under general anesthesia and makes a small incision behind the ear and a small hole in the skull, explains Healthline. He places a catheter through the hole in the skull and into the brain. He puts another catheter through the ear incision, down through the chest and into the abdomen. He attaches a pump to both catheters to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, and relieve skull pressure.

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The procedure lasts about 90 minutes, and recovery takes three to four days, with most patients able to leave the hospital within a week, according to Healthline. Possible complications of the surgery include bleeding, infection or adverse reaction to anesthesia. More rare complications include blood clots, bleeding or swelling in the brain, or damage to brain tissue.

A brain shunt procedure is part of treatment for hydrocephalus, a condition in which excess CSF accumulates in the brain and causes a harmful amount of pressure to build up around brain tissue, states Healthline. The brain shunt restores normal flow of CSF and helps prevent damage to the brain. Excess CSF can be the result of overproduction, poor absorption by the blood vessels or, most commonly, a blockage that prevents the proper flow of fluid through the brain.

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