Benefits and Risks — Shunt Therapy Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension


Typically, shunt implantation lets people with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) enjoy more normal lives, but there are risks and benefits to any surgery, including shunt therapy.


A shunt redirects cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the nervous system to another area of the body. It is designed to:

  • Regulate the amount, flow direction, and pressure of cerebrospinal fluid
  • Allow for adjustment of shunt drainage rate as needed


Unlike most surgical procedures, in which the risks are highest during the operation itself, most of the common problems associated with shunting may occur at a later time. The most common complications with shunting are obstruction, infection, and overdrainage.

Shunt Obstruction

Obstruction of a shunt may occur in any of the parts of the shunt system due to plugging by blood clots, bacterial colonisation, or other biological debris at some point along the shunt’s course. Another cause is disconnection of the components. If symptoms return, the shunt may be obstructed. Patients should seek medical assistance. Removal and replacement of the shunt may be required.


Infection is a risk with any surgical operation, especially when a foreign body like a shunt is implanted. If left untreated, infection can cause the wound to open up or cause systemic infection with chills and high fever.

If an infection develops, the shunt may need to be removed and replaced. Symptoms of infection may include unusual redness or swelling of the wounds along the length of the shunt path.


Overdrainage is generally caused when too much CSF is drained out of the ventricles too quickly. If symptoms return: headache, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, changes in vision – particularly double vision, overdrainage may be the problem. The problem may be that there is too much CSF being siphoned off too quickly and the valve needs re-adjusting to a pressure level that better suits the patient.