Is a Shunt Right for You? Shunt for Hydrocephalus


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. They will also consider any other conditions present.

Diagnostic Procedures

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.

Computerized Tomography

Computerized Tomography (CT) scans use tiny beams of x-ray to outline the skull, brain, and ventricles. In addition to visualizing the size and shape of the ventricles, abnormalities such as tumors, cysts, and other pathology can also be seen.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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 specialized 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.

Neuropsychological Tests

This series of questions and answers helps the healthcare team determine if hydrocephalus is causing a decrease in brain functioning.

Lumbar Infusion Test

With this specialized 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.

Controlled Lumbar Drainage

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.

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.