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Getting the Surgery
Brain surgery always entails some risk, but shunts have been used to treat hydrocephalus for more than 50 years. A neurosurgeon places the shunt, usually in less than an hour. Most people go home less than a week after surgery.
In order to determine whether a shunt is right for you or your family member, your healthcare team will use one or more of a variety of possible diagnostic tests.
Your healthcare team will walk you through the surgical process, which includes important steps before, during, and after the procedure to implant a shunt.
In order to determine whether a shunt is right for you or your family member, your neurosurgeon will use one or more of a variety of possible diagnostic tests. They will also consider any other conditions present.
There are several diagnostic tests that can help in diagnosing hydrocephalus. These same studies can also help evaluate the shunt in case of malfunction or infection.
A sophisticated method of outlining structures within the head using high frequency sound waves, ultrasound can be used only in infants whose fontanels are open, since the skull otherwise blocks sound waves.
Computerised tomography (CT) scans use tiny beams of x-ray to outline the skull, brain, and ventricles. In addition to visualising the size and shape of the ventricles, abnormalities such as tumours, cysts, and other pathology can also be seen.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that uses radio signals and a magnet to form computer images of the brain and the ventricles.
Cisternography is a test requiring injection of a small amount of radioactive material into the cerebrospinal fluid. Cisternography differentiates communicating from obstructive hydrocephalus, and determines cerebrospinal fluid flow.
Angiography is a specialised technique in which “contrast material” is injected into the arteries supplying the brain. Abnormal blood vessel problems or pathological lesions can be detected with this technique.
This series of questions and answers helps the healthcare team determine if hydrocephalus is causing a decrease in brain functioning.
With this specialised technique, fluid is injected into the lumbar area of the spine. This procedure is used for individuals with normal pressure hydrocephalus to determine their cerebrospinal fluid absorptive capacity.
A technique used to externally drain cerebrospinal fluid. The test is used to determine if an individual with normal pressure hydrocephalus will improve if a shunt is implanted.
Your neurosurgeon will walk you through the surgical process for shunt implantation, which includes important steps before, during, and after the procedure.
In order to help prevent infection, some of the hair on your head may need to be shaved. The medical team will wash your head and body with special soap.
Your neurosurgeon will make sure you understand the procedure, and answer any questions you may have.
The neurosurgery team performs the surgery in sterile conditions in theatre under general anaesthesia. The operation usually takes less than an hour. It generally involves the following steps:
Immediately after surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room. You will stay there for close observation for an hour or so and then be taken to their ward. Most patients leave the hospital within 2 to 7 days, depending on their progress.
Although this is the usual procedure when a shunt is placed, each individual may have a slightly different experience based upon their neurosurgeon, hospital, and their particular medical needs.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.