What Are the Warning Signs of a Shunt Malfunction?

Warning signs of a shunt malfunction include fever, irritability, headaches, a change in personality and redness or inflammation along the shunt’s path, according to the Hydrocephalus Association. Additionally, some signs are specific to particular age groups, such as the enlargement of the baby’s head in infants, difficulty waking up in children and adults, and urinary incontinence in elderly patients. A sudden shunt malfunction is a serious condition that may lead to coma or death.

A ventriculoperitoneal, or VP, shunt is a device surgically implanted on a brain ventricle as a treatment option for hydrocephalus, explains Healthline. Hydrocephalus is a condition characterized by an excessive buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain’s ventricles due to an overproduction or poor absorption of CSF or a blockage such as a tumor or cyst. The VP shunt diverts the excess cerebrospinal fluid away from the ventricles and reduces the harmful pressure on surrounding tissue.

The VP shunt placement procedure lasts about an hour and a half with the patient under general anesthetic, observes Healthline. Recovery time from the placement usually takes three to four days, with most patients leaving the hospital a week after the surgery. The shunting system is successful in reducing pressure in the brain’s ventricles. However, it needs frequent monitoring, follow-ups and a replacement after a few years.