Sunday, August 8, 2010

What is a Shunt?

A shunt is a small tube that may be inserted in different parts of the body in order to drain fluids. It is mostly used to take fluid off of the brain (Hydrocephalus).

When a shunt is first put in place, it is the dream of the neurosurgeon and patient that the shunt will last forever. Unfortunately, shunts do not last forever and it is unrealistic to think they will. Shunts are susceptible to failures and malfunctions, just like any other mechanical device.

If a shunt fails to operate correctly, becomes infected, or obstructed, the patients life and cognitive faculties are at risk. Often times the shunts must be revised under emergency conditions.

Symptoms should be taken seriously, especially if you notice two or more at the same time. Neurological status can deteriorate slowly (over a few months) or quite rapidly ( few hours or days). Therefore, when symptoms of a possible problem with a shunt begin to show, it is imperative that you seek medical attention immediately.

The following are a few (not all) of the symptoms of shunt malfunction and/or infection:

Difficulty Breathing

Any of the above symptoms, especially in combination with a high fever, could indicate the possibility that something is wrong.

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